Community rugby league clubs across St.Helens are set to benefit from up to £1m in investment thanks to the 2021 Rugby League World Cup (RLWC).
Almost a year on since the borough’s bid submission, St Helens Council’s cabinet approved plans to commit up to £500,000 of matched RLWC ‘CreatedBy’ legacy funding which it is hoped can go towards the delivery of at least one project in each of the 11 community rugby league clubs in St Helens.
The money will help projects like improvement works to grass pitches, changing rooms and spectator facilities to purchasing new equipment and clubs taking ownership of facilities and Saints first team stars, Matty Lees and Morgan Knowles joined representatives from the council and local community clubs at the Totally Wicked Stadium to announce the funding yesterday.
Earlier this year it was revealed that St Helens would stage three men’s group matches at our very own Totally Wicked Stadium, followed by the announcement in May that two nations will train in the borough – using St Helens Council’s state-of-the art Ruskin Drive Sports Village and Cowley International College to prepare for fixtures.
With more than 75 per cent of local spectators saying the tournament enhanced community spirit the last time the RLWC was in town in 2013, St Helens Council will also look to capitalise on the 2021 spectacle.
Tipped by organisers to be the biggest and best one yet, it will be an opportunity to show sport can make a difference by encouraging volunteering; healthy living, community engagement and growing the grassroots game.
It is also expected to boost the local economy by around £3.6m.
Councillor Anthony Burns, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure, and Libraries said: “This event is an opportunity to increase the borough’s profile nationally and internationally, supporting our aims of raising aspirations in St Helens as a place to live, work, study and visit.
“By investing this money from our Community Improvement Reserve, we’re pledging to support local rugby league teams to help improve the environments of grassroots players and hopefully influence the next generation of rugby league stars in a borough where rugby is more than just a game – it’s a way of life.
“Even if rugby league isn’t your thing this funding will also benefit other sports clubs and the communities they are at the heart of and we will be using this as a real opportunity to encourage people to think about helping out where they live and how they can make a difference to their own health, no matter how small a change towards a more active lifestyle.”
Rugby league clubs across the borough have praised the funding being made available for the grassroots game.
Phil Glover from Thatto Heath Crusaders said: “It’s great to bring kids down to rugby but you don’t want them running around in a mud bath, you don’t want them going in cold showers, you need to have the facilities these people deserve. We’re in an area that needs that regeneration, St Helens has had a proud industrial past and now that industry has moved on we’re looking to regenerate, and this will help because the community is where that starts so this funding is just invaluable.”
Graham Roberts, chairman of Blackbrook Royals Junior Rugby Club added: “It’s fantastic news, we’ve got a vision and a mission at the club where we talk about having the best facilities in the town and making sure we invest in our player development, making sure that the coaches have the right equipment to be able to then pass on those skills to the kids. We’re really excited about this so now the hard work starts, we’ve got to sit down with our executive committee and have a look at what our objectives are and our main priorities and start working with local authority and the RFL to make sure we maximise this bid.”