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GRASSROOTS


Rugby league is the more popular code of rugby in places such as Australia, but the sport is still considered to be playing second fiddle to rugby union in the UK. That could change following a successful World Cup this year and plans to grow the sport’s grassroots


these shores for the first time since 2000. As the tournament – co-hosted by England, France, Ireland and Wales – is part of the UK’s “Golden Decade of Sport”, it received unprecedented media attention. England’s games were shown live on BBC and viewing figures were phenomenal with 2.3m tuning in to see England’s semi-final loss to New Zealand. Ticket sales were encouraging too,


IN A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN T


he year 2013 has been a big one for rugby league in England. The World Cup, the sport’s premier event, returned to


captured the public’s imagination. There was success on the pitch too; England came within 20 seconds of reaching the final, playing a brand of rugby which was a genuine advert for the game, especially for those unfamiliar with the pace and power of rugby league. Brian Barwick, chair of the Rugby


with nearly 500,000 tickets being sold for the 28 games which were played across 21 venues (15 in England, three in Wales, two in France and one in Ireland). The 74,468 crowd for the final at Old Trafford was the largest ever for a rugby league international. Perhaps more tellingly, 10,000 tickets were sold for a game at Leigh between minnows Tonga and the Cook Islands – proof that the sport


Football League (RFL), said the tournament was a success both commercially and due to the effect it had on improving the sport’s profile. “The World Cup exceeded our expectations in terms of people going to games and the media interest it received,” he said. “I think it’s partly the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games – people have got into the habit of going to events.”


BUILDING ON SUCCESS RFL director of participation, David Gent, predicts that the World Cup will leave a lasting legacy which will see more people playing rugby league more often than


at grassroots level and we hope that the World Cup will inspire the next generation of rugby league players,” he says. “The build up to the World Cup during the summer bode well for the sport’s second March to November season. Everyone learnt a lot from the first summer season (in 2012) and we’re confident that this season we will have seen even more people playing rugby.” Matt Birkett, head of community game programmes, adds that the tournament


ever before. The 14-nation tournament in October and November coincided with the ending of the season for grassroots rugby. This year, 2013, was only the second season that the amateur and youth leagues were run predominantly as a summer sport, following a decision by the RFL to change from a winter sport in 2011. Gent expects the timing of the tournament to enhance the effect it will have on participation. “2013 will be massive for the sport


The RFL’s programmes include those designed for primary school children


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