Having attended a fund raising dinner for the Foundation I decided I wanted to know more about it so arranged a meeting with Dan Steel, the MD of the organisation. I had met Dan a few times so was unsurprised to hear a Northern accent, Dan had been working and coaching in Halifax and took a risk to move South to work in the game he loves. Harlequins had advertised for a Community Coach and he spent 2-3 years carrying out that role before becoming the Community Manager for 6 months. He then moved to the role of RFL Regional Manager in 2009, before that was surpassed by becoming National Club manager for the RFL.
We spoke of the need to involve Southerners to help the game grow outside of that M62 corridor. We also talked history, Harlequins Rugby League set up a charitable foundation in 2010, it was rebranded as the London Broncos Foundation when the club reverted to it’s original name. Broncos entered a period of disarray and the community work came to a halt.
This combined with a shift in Sport England Funding, their cycle is every 4 years and they had been funding the development of the game to increase participation. They changed tack in 2013 and made a decision not to invest in community coaches. The Foundation in its current guise was born in 2014.
With the natural home of Rugby League being in the North it has to be sold in the South in spite of the fact the game has been alive and kicking in the London area, there’s been a Streatham & Mitcham club since the 30’s and London Broncos started in the guise of Fulham in the 80’s.
The game has been at some strength in schools in London for a long time, largely down to where the PE teachers are from and there are double the number of clubs there were if we were to look back 10 years, however, countrywide the game hasn’t grown for a while overall.
Rob Powell, ex London Broncos coach delivers training to community clubs training the coaches and the very successful RFL programme, Embed The Pathway is delivered by the Foundation.
In 2017 Tag Rugby League for 5 to 6 year olds will feature in the London Youth Games, this will see the final take place at Crystal Palace on March 23rd – details are Here – grabbing them young should help to see the game grow.
The Foundation is registered as a charity and receives around £350,000 a year, including funds from the Sky Try Project.
Dan explained that research has shown that only 20% of those involved in sport want to participate in contact sport, those number are realistically likely to be lower when it comes to the participation of women. With that in mind the Foundation has launched TAGGED in 11 universities, Tag Rugby League has a much greater appeal to those who want to take part in the fun side of the game while getting some exercise with their friends. Try Tag Rugby have helped to launch the sport – details Here and it’s proving to be very popular.
As with so much funding from Sports England the aim is to increase the involvement of those not engaged in sport and physical activity, I have to say this format of the game would certainly have appealed to me.
As part of The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, details Here The Foundation has joined with the likes of the MCC to form a consortium to offer 20 apprenticeships to support young people to become qualified sports coaches, this really will change lives through the power of sport.
The nature of my article, jumping all over the place is a testament to the work being carried out by the Foundation, hopefully they’ll continue to grow and be successful, growing participation in a great sport. London Broncos are thriving in the Championship and London Skolars kick off their season against Division 1 newcomers the Toronto Wolfpack on March 4th. If you haven’t watched the game live I can highly recommend a visit to either or both clubs. – see you there!