Ralph Rimmer, CEO of the RFL, on the important messages from Sport England’s Active Lives report and how Rugby League will be relentless in sustaining and growing participation.
“The Active Lives report out yesterday shows that physical activity levels were on the rise in the run-up to the coronavirus outbreak. There was an increase of 404,600 adults being classed as physically active in the 12 months to November 2019 – when compared with 2018. It means that, prior to the pandemic, 28.6 million British adults – or 63.3 per cent – were doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week – the highest number ever recorded by the study.
The survey shows that men (65 per cent) are still more physically active than women (61 per cent). The number of people who are inactive (doing less than 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week) had fallen by 159,500. Overall, around a quarter (24.6 per cent) of all adults are now considered physically active.
Behind the increase is a rise in numbers of women, adults aged 55+ and disabled people being active – all good news, and Rugby League has played its part with the strong growth in women’s and disability RL. However, all of us in the sport sector are concerned that participation levels, especially in team sports, do not suffer lasting damage as a result of this crisis.
Our Sport England partners rightly point out some areas of real concern and describe as a ‘sobering reality’ that if you are well off you are far more likely to be active than if you are not.
People in lower socio-economic groups are less likely to be active, as are people from ethnic backgrounds. Half of all Rugby League players in all settings are from the most economically disadvantaged communities. The sport excels at providing outstanding sporting opportunities and life chances for communities that matter and must not be left behind. The RFL will work tirelessly with clubs, Foundations and volunteers to do whatever we can, with what we have, to ensure that playing levels are not adversely affected by the profound impact of the crisis, as well as continuing to provide all the wider social impacts that are now synonymous with Rugby League.
Inclusion in Rugby League – whether that is disability formats of our sport, or more opportunities for girls and women – will continue to be central to everything we do. As will redoubling our efforts to ensure that everyone knows they are welcome in our sport and will be supported to get involved and to progress.
There is no date yet for the resumption of team sport; and we know it may be more impacted than other types of activity. Last season we reported a third consecutive year of increased participation across junior, youth and open age Rugby League. This is positive especially against the backdrop of a national drop (reported in the survey) in the activity levels of people aged 16-34.
It is vital that now more than ever our sport works together to ensure we continue on this upward trajectory despite the challenges we all face”.
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