The RFL has launched a strategic plan to make rugby league an inclusive sport and tackle discrimination.
TACKLE IT has been launched to coincide with Black History Month and has four primary objectives:
1) Widen the reach and impact of Rugby League
2) diversify the game’s talent pool
3) improve the culture of Rugby League
4) clarify processes, instil confidence in and encourage reporting of discrimination, and ensure that appropriate sanctions are in place.
An RFL statement added: “The goals and actions support all the protected characteristics (in the Equality Act 2010): age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. With a focus on areas requiring particular support at specific times.
“The plan includes actions on player and coach recruitment and development, talent inclusion and progression, community outreach and club development, as well as on ensuring zero tolerance of all forms of discrimination within the game.”
Board chair Dr Rimla Akhtar MBE, an RFL Non-Executive Director, said: “Rugby League has an opportunity now to become a genuinely anti-racist and anti-discrimination sport.
“In our 125th year we are still not fully representative of our communities. Across all aspects of the game we continue to miss out on immense talent, passion, skills, and experience, as well as opportunities to connect, learn, grow, and expand. I am confident in our ability to challenge ourselves and to change.
“Since the game’s restart in August, and even during lockdown, we have seen how Rugby League is a powerful force for good, how it has such a deep connection with so many communities, and how it can be an anti-racism campaigning sport. This is a clear focus and it sits alongside our continued work on the gender balance in our sport and LGBQT and disability inclusion.”
Ralph Rimmer added: “This is an action plan by the game, for the game. It is the result of listening and learning, and a great deal of hard work involving people from across the sport. We have listened to the lived experience of Black players and coaches, volunteers, administrators, fans and external partners, and huge thanks go to everyone who has contributed enough for their insight, honesty, and commitment to getting us to this point.
“From here on it’s down to all of us to deliver. Actions speak louder than words. It’s Rugby League versus Discrimination and tackling it is a team effort.”
Dean Thomas, MD YFL Training, Head of Operations Ottawa RL, and member of the RFL I&D Advisory Board went on to say: “The TACKLE IT Action Plan satisfies my need for a structure that can be used to measure and challenge our sport’s performance in the areas of reach, impact, talent pool, culture and the reporting process for discrimination. Key points for me are the inclusion of Black and minority coaches to observe and or be invited to participate in the England Talent Pathway. It is great to see Craig Richards as the England Women’s Head Coach. It will be great to see talented coaches like Jermaine Coleman and Leon Pryce being able to observe and/or participate in the England Talent Pathway, prior to, during and after next year’s Rugby League World Cup.”