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RFL seeks investment for National Facilities Strategy, Hull KR heading to Amsterdam

Featured image credit: RFL

The Rugby Football League (RFL) has launched a new National Facilities Strategy, aiming to unlock investment of £100m (€117.6m/$127.5m) to improve infrastructure throughout the sport, while Super League club Hull KR has announced plans for a pre-season game in Amsterdam.

Ahead of the UK’s General Election, the RFL has written to party leaders calling for their support, and emphasising the successes of England’s staging of the Rugby League World Cup in 2022 and the CreatedBy facilities programme, which transformed £10m of government funding into more than £27m of investment into clubs and foundations.

The strategy unveiled today (Wednesday) has been developed by the specialist consultants Knight, Kavanagh & Page, based on a national consultation process with community rugby league clubs and charitable community organisations.

Community clubs are facing a wide range of challenges including rising costs, the ongoing impact of the cost-of-living crisis, COVID-19 recovery, and the erosion of local support networks. The RFL said these issues are compounded by deteriorating playing surfaces, which lead to session cancellations, decreased participation, unsustainable club operations, and in some cases, clubs being at risk of closure.

Four key areas of focus have been identified in the report:

  • Security of Tenure – allowing clubs to plan for the long-term;
  • Accessible and Inclusive Facilities – providing suitable facilities for all, and creating safe spaces for the wider community;
  • Adequate and Appropriate Pitch Provision – investment both in playing surfaces, and in upskilling a volunteer workforce to maintain them;
  • Sustainability – both environmental and financial.

Investment in infrastructure across the professional game has also been a key focus for the RFL as it aims to take the game into a new era. In October, seven top-tier Super League clubs received Grade A status in the indicative phase of a new process being introduced by the IMG agency that will ultimately determine the make-up of club competitions. Standard of stadia is one of five areas being assessed.

Tony Sutton, chief executive of the RFL, said today: “We saw in hosting the last Rugby League World Cup that our sport has a unique ability to deliver positive social impact in hard to reach parts of the country, especially across the north of England.

“Some 46% of our participants are from the top 30% most deprived communities whilst 59 of the 81 constituencies identified in our Facilities Strategy are in the North of England – a region which has historically received less investment than in other parts of the country.

“That’s why we have developed a National Facilities Strategy, underlining the transformation that could be delivered across the sport over the next decade by a larger scale of investment.

“Much of this work would be in partnership with other sports to maximise return on investment – such as our proposed feasibility work on a National Wheelchair Rugby League Centre, and the support we have already received through the Football Foundation’s Multisports projects.”

Amsterdam adventure

Meanwhile, Hull KR has announced that the 2025 RugbyLeague.com Amsterdam Challenge will see it take on Championship club York RLFC Knights in the Netherlands on January 25.

The match will be held at NRCA Stadium, which recently hosted a EPCR Challenge Cup rugby union fixture before a sell-out crowd, with KR stating that it will seek to transplant the Sewell Group Craven Park experience to the Amsterdam venue.

In the build-up to the event, the Hull KR Foundation will work closely with Dutch rugby league governing body the NRLB and local schools to get rugby balls into the hands of children for the first time, with the goal of developing potential male and female player pathways and generating interest in the sport, alongside local marketing campaigns to raise awareness of the event.

Hull KR chief executive, Paul Lakin, said: “This is an exciting day for the club as we continue our Global Robins journey. Last month we announced a historic partnership with the Port Moresby Vipers in Papua New Guinea, and now we announce our next international venture.

“After working with the Netherlands National Rugby League Governing body in the community for some time, we are delighted to extend our partnership to take the club on tour to play a game in Amsterdam in January 2025.

“With direct transport links to Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and a long history of trading with the docks of Hull, the great country of the Netherlands are almost neighbours for us, with Amsterdam being a shorter distance away from East Hull in miles than Aberdeen or Devon, as the crow flies.

“With over 100 rugby clubs in the country, it’s a natural territory for us to explore new male and female pathways and grow our footprint, whilst giving our fans the opportunity to have a fantastic weekend away in one of Europe’s best cities.

“We are planning a full takeover, from fan parties to the Foundation spending time in schools in the build-up. Gameday itself will be our full, unique, Sewell Group Craven Park experience on tour and it will be a great experience for both our loyal supporters, and the local audience we aim to attract.”

Daan Van Rossum from the NRLB, added: “This is a significant step in our journey to develop the Netherlands rugby league pathways and become accredited to play in World Cup tournaments.

“The profile Hull KR will bring the sport in the region cannot be underestimated, and I know as part of this project they are committed to leaving a legacy. The work Hull KR put in helped us kick-off our Young Lions and Lionesses programmes. The latter being especially successful. I believe Hull KR will continue to help us make an impact in the community.

“This will show in the build-up to the game, and help our mission to get rugby balls in the hands of our children, to what we have planned to make it a special weekend and gameday for both local fans, and those visiting from the UK.

“It’s an exciting project, and one we hope to grow each year to support our vision for rugby league in the Netherlands.”