The outstanding contribution made by Rugby League as part of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic is highlighted in updated version of a groundbreaking report first published in 2019.
The Rugby League Dividend Report was commissioned from the Sport Policy Unit of Manchester Metropolitan University by the RFL in 2018-19, during Andy Burnham’s term as RFL President, to investigate and measure the social and economic impact of Rugby League in England.
It concluded that the sport delivers an annual social impact worth more than £185million to the country, with every £1 spent by Community Clubs and Foundations generating a social return of £4.08. This is in addition to the annual economic impact of the sport of over £141m.
The unique challenges of 2020-21 provided further tangible evidence that “Rugby League is more than a sport” – which has now been documented in an addition to the Dividend Report, and summarised by Judith Cummins, the MP for Bradford South who is Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Rugby League.
Reflecting on the past year, Judith Cummins MP writes: “2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year for the whole country and the impact of Coronavirus has hit hardest in areas of socio-economic disadvantage. That is why the selfless efforts of Rugby League clubs including many players, staff and volunteers, the charities and individual supporters should be recognised for the impact they have had and continue to have in supporting our communities through lockdowns and restrictions. They have often been the glue keeping communities together. They have certainly helped many thousands of people to get through whether by delivering food and medicine, or offering a friendly face and listening ear, and keeping people active and lifting spirits.
“The All-Party Group of Parliamentarians works to champion the sport and its unique place in the national sporting and social landscape – the measurable difference or dividend that Rugby League delivers in our communities. This has never been more evident than during 2020.”
When the pandemic hit and the country went into lockdown in March 2020, it triggered in people a wide range of emotions – shock, fear, disbelief, anxiety, despair. Normal life ended abruptly, support services struggled to fill the void, many were gripped by panic and uncertainty. People needed support – and the updated report presents examples of how Rugby League swung into action.
Judith Cummins adds: “Many Rugby League people should be extremely proud of what they have done to support their neighbours and local community. It is vital and often unsung work which has been essential and will help our communities and the country recover as we look to a better 2021, the return of the sport at all levels, and the national tonic of a home World Cup.
“On behalf of the All-Party Group, to everyone in Rugby League who has demonstrated the values of the sport throughout this period, our recognition and our heartfelt thanks.”
The updated Rugby League Dividend Report is available in full here:
The RFL will publish the second in a series of Impact Reports, focusing on the progress made and challenges faced by Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League, later this month.