Super League (Europe) and the Rugby Football League (RFL) have partnered with the national social care charity Community Integrated Care to form a ground-breaking inclusive sports programme for people with learning disabilities and autism.
The ‘Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League’ will give people with learning disabilities the opportunity to play an adapted version of Rugby League, in a series of high-profile festivals and events. The programme aims to promote the development of skills, confidence and positive experiences for people with learning disabilities, and make a major statement about social inclusion. This is a world-first initiative as a professional sports league shares its brand with a learning disability sports programme.
The inclusive competition has been supported by 12 founder clubs, who have established or will be developing Learning Disability Rugby League teams: Castleford Tigers, Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR, Leeds Rhinos, Newcastle Thunder, Salford Red Devils, St Helens, Wakefield Trinity, Warrington Wolves, Widnes Vikings, Wigan Warriors and York City Knights.
Learning Disability Rugby League is a specially adapted non-competitive game, which focuses on encouraging participation and skills development. To support the success of this programme, Community Integrated Care is providing specialist training to all participating clubs, as well as direct investment into the sport.
The programme is set to launch at the Betfred Super League’s Dacia Magic Weekend event, which takes place at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, on 25-26th May 2019. This will provide one of the biggest ever crowds for a learning disability sport event.
The initiative was revealed today at Community Integrated Care’s Annual Conference, which took place at Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United. The launch event was hosted by Sky Sports presenters Terry O’Connor and Brian Carney. It featured contributions from Warrington Wolves hooker Danny Walker, Wigan Warriors second-row,Willie Isa, and St Helens prop Luke Douglas, who have all signed up as Ambassadors for the programme, having proudly supported LDRL initiatives or the charity Community Integrated Care in the past. The Leeds Rhinos forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan has also signed up as an Ambassador.
Community Integrated Care is one of Britain’s biggest and most successful social care charities, supporting over 3500 people who have learning disabilities, autism, mental health concerns and dementia across England and Scotland. The charity has developed several pioneering sports and social care programmes, including initiatives with leading Rugby League clubs that have been recognised at the National Dementia Care Awards, 3rd Sector Care Awards and the Great British Care Awards.
This announcement is part of a wider strategic partnership between Community Integrated Care, the Super League and the RFL, which aims to develop and enhance the community programmes provided by the sport to people with care and support needs. As the Official Social Care Partner of the sport, the charity will be leading the development of a range of programmes that will use Rugby League to transform the lives of people who require care and support.
Robert Elstone, CEO of Super League, said: “I would like to thank Community Integrated Care for presenting this ground-breaking opportunity to Super League. The passion and commitment shown to date to get this project underway bodes well for a partnership that will reward all participants in so many ways. Not only will this deliver amazing opportunities for all the players, and experiences that will live in the memory for lifetimes, it will also endorse everything that Super League stands for.
“Our Clubs sit at the heart of proud communities and bring people together every day of the year. The Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League will widen that reach and amplify these special qualities.”
Ralph Rimmer, the Chief Executive of the RFL, said: “As a governing body we are extremely proud of our work in developing both Physical Disability and Learning Disability Rugby League over the past 12 months. To have a partner of the calibre of Community Integrated Care come on board is really exciting and they will add real value as we look to develop this format.
“The work the Club Foundations have done in giving players with a learning disability the chance to experience Rugby League has been first class and we look forward to working with Super League, Club Foundations and Community Integrated Care to continue to deliver some unprecedented playing opportunities.”
Mark Adams, CEO of Community Integrated Care, says: “We believe that this collaboration will become one of the most significant inclusive sports programmes in the world. This initiative gives people with learning disabilities an unparalleled platform to stay active, make friends, develop skills and achieve their dreams. By providing people with the opportunity to represent the clubs that they love, become Super League players, and be part of the game’s biggest events, such as Magic Weekend, the sport is not only changing people’s lives but also making a powerful statement about the inclusiveness and values of Rugby League.
“As the Official Social Care partner of the sport, we are looking forward to working with the sport to changing the lives of thousands of people with learning disabilities, mental health concerns, autism and dementia.
“We would like to commend the Super League, RFL, all participating clubs, and the players and legends who have signed up as Ambassadors, for their vision and passion for this programme.”