Rugby League well represented in Queen’s Birthday Honours
The Rugby Football League has paid tribute to all those recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for 2021, including Rimla Akhtar, non-executive director of the RFL who is awarded the OBE for services to quality and diversity in Sport;
Others honoured are:
* Stephen Ball, the general manager of the Rugby League Benevolent Fund, who is awarded the MBE for his services to Rugby League Charities;
* Martin Blondel, the general manager of the Steve Prescott Foundation, who is awarded the MBE for services to the community in St Helens, particularly during Covid-19;
* Kevin Sinfield, the Leeds Rhinos director of rugby, who is awarded the OBE for services to Rugby League Football and charitable fund-raising;
* Nigel Wood, the chairman of Bradford Bulls, who is awarded the OBE for services to Rugby League Football.
Simon Johnson, the RFL chairperson said: ''I am delighted and honoured to welcome these five awards on behalf of the RFL and the sport.
“Stephen Ball has been recognised as one of the unsung heroes of Rugby League for decades, having served a number of clubs in a variety of roles before the outstanding work he has done for the Benevolent Fund.
“Kevin Sinfield was already established as a legend of the game through his playing performances for Leeds Rhinos, England and Great Britain, before his inspirational efforts in support of his former team-mate and close friend Rob Burrow MBE last winter.
“Nigel Wood was a member of the RFL Board for 18 years, and steered the sport as Chief Executive for a decade, including the successful staging of the 2013 World Cup and the foundation of the Rugby League Benevolent Fund, before becoming chaiperson of the International Federation.
“My colleague Rimla Akhtar has been an invaluable addition to our board since she was elected a non-executive director in 2019, and in the last year has taken another key role as chairperson of our new inclusion board – in addition to her work in other sports, as a true trailblazer for Equality and Diversity.
“Like Rimla, Martin Blondel has not been recognised specifically for his work in Rugby League. But like Stephen Ball, he has worked tirelessly and selflessly to help Rugby League people who encounter tough times, initially through the Steve Prescott Foundation and never more importantly than during the challenges of 2020-21, when Rugby League’s social value in towns such as St Helens shone through so brightly.”