22nd June 2020

Black lives matter – and the sport of Rugby League stands in solidarity with players, coaches, fans, volunteers, staff and supporters in the struggle against racism and discrimination. 

As a sport we have been sharing, reflecting and we have been listening. And we will continue to listen and learn from the lived experiences of Black players, coaches, and supporters, to share ideas and to check and challenge ourselves to do more and be better. 

Rugby League is already a powerful force for good in many ways and this reach and care can be a powerful force in our communities in the fight against racism. Together, Rugby League can work to be actively anti-racist and to stand stronger with the Black community.

We will focus on the actions we can take now, and continuous improvement. This means we will redouble our efforts to increase the number of Black and Minority Ethnic players, coaches, administrators, volunteers, fans, and supporters. The organisations in the sport will be unequivocal in how we deal with racism; and together we will make stronger use of our platforms to be anti-racism campaigners. 

Rugby League has been enriched throughout its history by outstanding Black players, captains and coaches. We are all proud of that, as we are of clubs, Foundations and projects which have reached and continue to reach BAME participants, fans and communities through their pathways and programmes. We must now bring together all the learnings from the past without living in it.

We are an honest sport and we are acknowledging the reality that in our 125th year our sport is not fully representative of the communities in which we are based. Whether that is on professional or community pitches, in clubhouses, on terraces, in boardrooms, in the media or in our community work. And that means the sport misses out on immense talent, passion, skills and experience, and opportunities to connect, learn, grow, and expand. 

By owning the issues together and being honest, we can address barriers and make changes together.

Inclusion and Diversity plans are embedded in the work of the National Governing Body and clubs and Foundations and Rugby League Cares (the sport’s charity), and community clubs and education partners, and the themes drive the work of RLWC2021. 

There is a huge opportunity to do more and be better now as we look to ahead to the most inclusive World Cup ever held. For the first time the World Cup will stage three competitions – Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair RL in one inspirational tournament. It will be a celebration of the development of a sport, formed in England in 1895 and now set to welcome teams from around the world. 

We have an opportunity that we must take to connect with everyone in our communities and welcome new audiences by listening, learning, and acting.

Listening and Learning into Action Sessions are taking place across the sport, supported by the RFL, Super League, Championship and League 1, and partners for the whole sport:

Wednesday 24 June 5PM: Black lives matter – players, coaches, and allies – first session facilitated by Alex Simmons and Dean Thomas. With further sessions to follow.

The above sessions, and others, will inform a review of the RFL’s Inclusion and Diversity Action Plans, and learning content on all protected characteristics, which are developed for the whole sport; and the development of the RLWC2021 Diversity plans for the tournament and legacy.

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