Super League and the Rugby Football League have joined forces 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: Saints, Castleford Tigers, Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR, Leeds Rhinos, Newcastle Thunder, Salford Red Devils, 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 May 25-26 and 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 more than 3,500 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: “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.”