Blog entry by Niall Judge

Anyone in the world

John Mcmullen, Projects and Partnerships Manager at the RFL, shares with Club Matters how the organisation has adapted to the challenges presented by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) emergency and what they’re doing to support their clubs and players during this period.

As soon as all RL activity was put on hold - with the resulting uncertainty for community clubs and our volunteer workforce - all community RFL staff, regardless of their particular speciality, were reassigned to support four key pillars of work:

1)      Public Health
2)      Player Welfare
3)      Financial sustainability of clubs and Foundations
4)      Competition integrity and scenario planning

Each area has core staff allocated and we have retained the flexibility to move staff around to ensure resource always meets the most need.

The priorities at the start of lockdown were two-fold: ensure we help keep players active and engaged; and identify and prioritise the clubs most likely to need immediate support.

Within a few days we launched our first resource designed to keep players engaged and active at home #SkillToPlay . This online initiative encourages young players to emulate the skills of their heroes by sharing videos on social media. There was considerable buy-in from across the game with several Super League stars getting involved. A linked initiative followed quickly, aimed at a slightly older demographic - #FitToPlay.

Inclusion principles have driven the creation our at-home activity resources. Ensuring this has extended to players with different needs, such as our Learning Disability or Physical Disability players and also the less active in our communities. Together with our national social care charity partner, Community Integrated Care, and Leeds Rhinos Foundation, we launched #ActiveAtHome.

Our suite of RL activity resources enables us to support of Sport England’s #StayInWorkout initiative. And we have joined forces with Super League, the RLWC2021 and RL Cares to deliver mental health fitness and wider wellbeing support through the RL United campaign.

Competition and programme scenario planning will ensure great RL experiences once we return to play. Community club and stakeholder support to ensure the resilience and future health of grassroots game is focused on a five-point plan: -

1)      Ensure effective communication channels

Efficient, direct and effective club comms has been a priority. Using traditional methods such as email, phone and direct message, alongside new channels inc. club webinars utilising tools such as Padlet.

2)      Communication Plan

Managing the volume of info for clubs and volunteers is vital; ensuring key messages are not lost. Consistent and regular communications delivered in a co-ordinated way has been a priority: weekly updates from CEO Ralph Rimmer delivering game-wide updates; clarity on key Government and Sport England support available and more detailed co-ordinated communications tailored to our clubs; and supporting clubs with their own communications plans to ensure they stay in regular contact and relevant to their members.

3)      Prioritisation of risk

Immediately on lockdown, we contacted all clubs to request some basic information. This has helped us identify which clubs or groups of clubs are at most risk, for example clubs who are part of a wider sports and social club set up, and asset-owning clubs. This has enabled us to target support more effectively.

4)      Dedicated Support Staff

In addition to the generic information communicated to all clubs, every club has been allocated a member of staff to support. Informed by the information supplied by clubs early in the process staff have the necessary information to assist with more tailored support.

5)      On-line Learning Platform

We have widened the scope of this new project from an initial focus on coach development to enable wider groups (e.g. club chairs, groundsmen and women) to access this knowledge sharing platform. Facilitating peer-to-peer expertise and best practice sharing is proving useful and valued.

Clubs and volunteers remain at the heart of their local communities, co-ordinating vital support, such as the examples below:

West Bank Bears ARLC contribute items for elderly

Distington ARL’s ‘Friend not Foe’ service for elderly

Brookbank ARLFC and Johnny Vegas delivering for St Helens

North Herts Crusaders stepping up for local community

Amplification and encouragement of great, very localised community work remains a focus of our Social Media Team.

Whilst we have needed to flex given the unique circumstances, we have tried to ensure we have accelerated planned work - which will give longer term benefits and maximise investments. For example, the #SkillToPlay and #FitToPlay initiatives slot into wider work to digitise the National Player Development Framework and will be adapted and reused. The daily conversations with clubs, will help steer them through the current crisis and further equip them to take every advantage of the RLWC2021 opportunity; obtain club accreditation and secure future funding.

[ Modified: Thursday, 16 April 2020, 10:52 AM ]