RFL and government relationship remains strong despite Brexit changes

Dutton said he would look into an artificial pitch programme as part of the proposed improvements

Rugby league's relationship with the government will continue to burgeon despite a raft of changes following Brexit, according to the Rugby Football League’s (RFL) planning director. 

Over the past year the government had emphasised the importance of the sport, particularly in relation to its Northern Powerhouse initiative, which is targeting increased prosperity in the north of England. 

Last autumn former chancellor George Osborne revealed England’s bid for the 2021 World Cup, which was backed up by a £15m (US$19.5m, €17.5m) bid fund and £10m (US$13m, €11.7m) for infrastructure improvements. However, since the UK decided to leave the European Union Osborne has been replaced, as has former culture secretary John Whittingdale who “championed” the bid. 

Talking to Sports Management, RFL director of projects and planning Jon Dutton said that despite the changes to government, the plan to improve the landscape for rugby league remained. 

While the £10m infrastructure funding will only be fully granted if England wins the bid, Dutton revealed that the governing body and DCMS were “working up a proposal of how it is going to be invested”. 

Dutton said the RFL was in the process of “building stakeholder relationships” with incoming culture secretary Karen Bradley with a view to getting the plan signed off towards the end of the year. 

“We went to speak with the Treasury last year, very much predicated on the Northern Powerhouse and the contribution we felt the sport could play for that agenda,” he said. 

Community rugby league has “suffered from a lack of investment in terms of facility improvement” said Dutton, who suggested that funds could be directed towards an artificial pitch plan, so that grassroots rugby league can be played all year round, and the improvement of clubhouses to make them “welcoming environments”. 

“We would be keen to talk to other sports to see if there’s an ability to share facilities – that’s something we’d definitely look at,” he added. 

To read the full interview with Jon Dutton, click here.

First published on www.sportsmanagement.co.uk, written by Matthew Campelli, 10 Aug 2016