Sport England slashes funding cash to rugby league by £10m

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Rugby league chiefs have been left “disappointed” after their funding from Sport England was reduced by over £10m for the next four years.

The Rugby Football League were told last night by Sport England they will receive £17.5m between 2013-2017 to help more people become involved in the sport and implement the game’s Whole Sport Plan.

The previous funding, between 2009-2013, was for £27.6m and aimed at expanding the game’s appeal across the country.

RFL chief executive Nigel Wood said: “We will now be looking carefully at the award details of the new Whole Sport plan to see how we take our important community and talent development work forward with the support of Sport England and naturally we are disappointed that Rugby League has not been able to maintain the previous level of funding.

“Over the last four years Whole Sport funding has enabled us to undertake some outstanding development work, helping to create a situation where more people than ever before have actually played the sport in the past 12 months.”

Sport England is investing £493m into 46 sports between 2013 and 2017. All Olympic and Paralympic sports will benefit with 31 sports receiving their largest ever investment in grassroots sports including cycling, netball, wheelchair basketball and triathlon all receiving increases of over 30 per cent.

RFL director of participation David Gent said: “Sport England has recognised that we have already taken decisive action to increase the number of people playing Rugby League and improve the experience by moving the playing season to summer.

“The focus of the new plan 2013-2017 will be on retention of current players, but we also have a growth target.”

The RFL will spend £1m on improving and renovating pitches, while £4.5m will be allocated to developing talented youngsters.

Sport England’s director of sport, Lisa O’Keefe, said: “Changing the competition season and focusing on club and league development are sensible ways to increase the number of people playing rugby league.”