Parliament Comes Together to Celebrate Rugby Group
The Annual Dinner of the UK’s Parliamentary Rugby League Group took place in the Palace of Westminster yesterday evening (Monday 17 March).
Hosted by Group President, Lord Hoyle, Members of both Houses of Parliament were joined by Associate Members, Group supporters and event sponsor The RFL and their guests.
Known for being one of the more active Groups in Parliament, the Rugby League Group had been particularly so over its 25th Anniversary year,
The Group heard from Wheelchair Rugby League, National School Champions Howard of Effingham School, the Championship One southern clubs Oxford Rugby League, London Skolars, Gloucester All-Golds and Hemel Stags.holding 10 monthly meetings, visits and receptions relating to RLWC2013 including volunteers, the Serbian Armed Forces and delegates involved in the tournament.
During the World Cup, the Group were joined by Rugby League International Federation Chairman Scott Carter and NRL CEO Dave Smith. Tournament lead Sally Bolton spoke to the Group before the compe
The RFL were represented at meetings by Chairman Brian Barwick, CEO Nigel Wood, COO Ralph Rimmer and Partnerships Director David Gent, all of whom updated the Group on the sport’s development and activities.tition, and updated the Group only last month on the interim results.
2014 also represents the 20th anniversary of one of the Group’s first and most significant activities, acting to overturn on rugby league being played in the Armed Forces. The Group heard from representatives of GB Armed Forces in late 2013 to hear about progress to date. Sister body, the Political Animals RLFC will be playing the Army Veterans team on 2 May at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as a means to celebrate the formation of Army Rugby League.
During the dinner the Group’s Chairman, Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland, paid tribute to the hard work of the Group over its 25th Anniversary year and over the course of an extremely busy year for the sport. He thanked those involved in the RLWC2013 for creating “an outstanding spectacle or world-class entertainment both on and off the field” and praised their achievements as “a showcase like no other in terms of delivering such a wonderful tournament.”
Related was the Group’s most significant activity over the last year, the short high-pressure public campaign to break the deadlock over RLWC2013 being broadcast on Premier Sports via the Virgin Media platform, a matter that had taken years to resolve. Mulholland paid tribute to the Group’s Secretariat Mark Ramsdale for arranging what he called a “masterclass in timely public campaigning.”
The Group expanded its ranks with more Members joining, and long-standing supporter The RFL and returning supporter William Hill being joined by new supporters, Tetley’s and the Shield Group, noting “without whose support, the Group would not be able to deliver its aims and continue to challenge issues surrounding the game and sport in general.”
The Group created new grades of membership for clubs, and welcomed the first such members – Oxford Rugby League, Bradford Bulls and Brentwood Eels and Mulholland encouraged more to get involved.
The Geoff Lofthouse Award, named after one of late founders of the Group and long-serving Chairman, was made to another stalwart in the game, dual code international and veteran broadcaster Ray French MBE. On making the award, Mulholland praised his “longevity, inimitable delivery and ability to bring the game to life and draw people in the game through his work across all mediums and tireless promotion of the game.”
French, who last visited the Group to raise the BBC’s proposals to sport coverage on local radio, thanked the Group for the award, and in typical understated fashion, speaking about its achievements over its 25 year history.