Leeds Rhinos Foundation launch Respect campaign

Ahead of the start of the new junior community Rugby League season this weekend, Leeds Rhinos Foundation has launched a new film to support the RFL’s ‘Respect’ campaign to encourage positive touchline behaviour.

Responding to increasing concerns from community clubs about negative and abusive conduct which has targeted players and referees, Leeds Rhinos Foundation has produced a short film to highlight the messages of the Respect Campaign and featuring a scene showing some of the comments reported to have been targeted at referees and young players and the impact they have.  The charity will also be running community club workshops that aim to support clubs and provide better environments for players and match officials.

Respect aims to improve touchline behaviour at community games, tackle abuse of match officials, address any player and fan misbehaviour and ensure a welcoming environment at all levels of the game.

Speaking about the campaign, Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s Community Clubs Development Officer, Sam Horner said: “This week junior clubs will be getting ready for their first games of the season and with that comes a lot of excitement.  It’s important that the young people involved in playing the sport continue to feel that joy and don’t lose love for the game because of the negative comments from the sideline.  This includes respect for our match officials who do a brilliant job and without whom our game wouldn’t exist.

“Everyone involved in the game has a duty to set the right example, from coaches to spectators.  We hope this film and the courses we will be running will help start conversations and make people think about how they act.

“It is vital for the future of our game that our young players enjoy match days and want to keep playing.  We understand sport brings out people’s passions, but we have to remember that these are children.  As adults we wouldn’t shout at someone else’s child in any other circumstance, so we need to make sure it is not accepted in a rugby setting either. We need to grow our game so our community clubs need to be welcoming environments for young people and their families.”

Leeds Rhinos players are also backing the Respect initiative and have made short videos for community players and clubs echoing the messages of the campaign.

Ash Handley, who played his junior rugby with Oulton Raiders said: “Some of the best memories I have are playing rugby with my mates at junior level.  Everyone there is involved for the love of the game and it’s all about enjoying rugby.  I’ll always be grateful for the volunteers, whether as coaches or as referees, who made that possible.  We all must remember that it’s about enjoyment and creating welcoming environments and it’s important that we give our support to this campaign.”

As part of the Respect campaign, the RFL have sent clubs at all levels bespoke campaign assets featuring imagery related to their club.  Tougher sanctions will also be in force for those found to have breached the game’s Respect codes of conduct.