RFL Vice-President Mike Smith has issued a rallying call for Rugby League to help address the digital exclusion facing many children and young people.
The former Hull Kingston Rovers Chief Executive is using his term in office to champion the ways in which the entire Rugby League network can mobilise its collective resources and expertise to make a positive difference to the lives of some of our communities’ most disadvantaged children.
Mike Smith has written to all clubs, highlighting the digital divide between those families whose children have access to laptops and wifi for home learning and those who do not, and asking them to support local appeals for donations.
Mike Smith, now Trust Director of the Hull Kingston Rovers Community Trust, says:
“There’s a digital divide threatening the life chances of too many children and young people within our communities. We need to make sure that every child has access to a home computer so that they aren’t left behind. Futures are on the line. A lack of access also means missing out on online fitness and mental wellbeing resources, and an overall means of being connected to their club and the sport.
“Rugby League has risen to the challenge time and again throughout this pandemic. Now we must do so again.
“The challenge is to help get working but unwanted equipment into the hands of disadvantaged children – and ensuring that they can get online. In many communities, Rugby League – clubs, foundations, players and volunteers – are uniquely placed to support local activity.
“We have a strong track record of working with schools, community groups, businesses, local authorities and politicians of all persuasion to reach people, to amplify messages and to highlight campaigns through prominent personalities.”
Rugby League’s outstanding social impact during the Covid-19 pandemic is highlighted in updated version of a groundbreaking report first published in 2019.
The Rugby League Dividend Report was commissioned from the Sport Policy Unit of Manchester Metropolitan University by the RFL in 2018-19, during Andy Burnham’s term as RFL President, to investigate and measure the social and economic impact of Rugby League in England. It concluded that the sport delivers an annual social impact worth more than £185million to the country, with every £1 spent by Community Clubs and Foundations generating a social return of £4.08. This is in addition to the annual economic impact of the sport of over £141m.