Rugby League International Federation Board visit Parliament
Ahead of the Four Nations double header at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 5th November, the Board of the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) visited the Houses of Parliament on Thursday (3rd November) to meet the UK’s Parliamentary Rugby League Group Chair Greg Mulholland and Sports Minister Hugh Robertson to discuss the tournament, the 2013 World Cup and the growth of the sport throughout the world.
The Board also witnessed Culture, Media, Olympics and Sport Questions in the House of Commons, during which Mulholland highlighted what it means to means to the UK to have international Rugby League football return to Wembley Stadium and if the Government would be able to support the recently-announced statue to be built at the stadium recognising its important role in the sport.
After speaking in the Chamber, Mulholland and Robertson joined the RLIF Board and the World Cup trophy in front of Big Ben [pictures provided] where Mulholland said “I am thoroughly looking forward to the double header at Wembley. It is fantastic to see the return of international Rugby League to the national stadium which will once again see some of the world’s greatest athletes play on the spiritual home of rugby league.”
On the announcement of the Statue, Mulholland said “this is something that the Parliamentary Rugby League Group – including a Commons Early Day Motion tabled by Lindsay Hoyle with support from Rugby League Group members – has been campaigning for since 2009. With the Four Nations and the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, it is only fitting that a statue celebrating the sport has a prominent place at Wembley. I have written to the RFL and Wembley asking how we can support and the debate about who the statue could represent is already raging amongst Parliamentary colleagues.”
Sports Minister Hugh Robertson added the Government’s support to the tournament and said how good it was to see England returning to Wembley Stadium. “Wembley Stadium is synonymous with Rugby League and this weekend’s Four Nations double header will not only be wonderful showpiece for England and Wales Rugby League, it will be a spectacle of some of the best sport the UK has to offer. I want to add my support to both the England and Wales teams and wish them the best of luck.”
RLIF Vice-Chair Richard Lewis said “This is a very busy time for Rugby League in the UK. As well as the current Four Nations tournament, the recent play-off games have now established which teams will be taking part in the 2013 World Cup and the RFL is working hard alongside those nations to ensure the World Cup is the biggest and best so far.
“That we have the support of Members of Parliament and Government means a huge amount to sport and I speak on behalf of the rest of the RLIF Board when I say what a privilege it was to see Greg Mulholland and Hugh Robertson debating Rugby League in the House of Commons Chamber.”
Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): What support his Department has provided to the rugby league Four Nations tournament.
The Minister for Sport and the Olympics (Hugh Robertson): Sport England is providing £27.5 million to the Rugby Football League to support the grassroots in the period 2009-13. We are also providing up to £1.5 million to help with the hosting of the rugby league world cup in 2013. As with the six nations tournament in rugby union, we do not provide direct financial support for the Four Nations cup in rugby league, but I wish it every success.
Greg Mulholland: I thank the Minister for his answer and for his support. The all-party rugby league group is delighted to host the Rugby League International Federation board today, and I am sure that he will want to join us in welcoming the return of international rugby league to Wembley with the Four Nations double header on Saturday. Does he welcome the fact that there is going to be a statue of a rugby league player at Wembley, and will the Government assist in making that a success as well?
Hugh Robertson: I join the hon. Gentleman in welcoming the international board. That is a fantastic achievement, and yes, it is right that an appropriate way to mark that connection should be found at Wembley, which is a stadium that resonates with rugby league history as well as football history. I will of course do anything that I can to help.