Tonight (31st January 2012), the Parliamentary Rugby League Group held its annual dinner in the House of Lords. The dinner, sponsored by the RFL is attended by Lords, MPs, Associate Members of the Parliamentary Group and selects guests and provides the chance to look back at the work of the Group over the previous year and look at what awaits in 2012.
The dinner was officially hosted by Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract, who stepped down as Chairman of the Group in July before being made Honourary Life President by the Group. His successor is Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland, who gave the keynote address, saying “This has been an outstanding year for the Group. We have had some notable successes and we should rightly feel proud.”
In the course of the previous twelve months, the Group secured the threatened half-million pound funding from the North West Development Agency for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and saw its campaign for a rugby league statue at Wembley come to fruition. In the last few months, it successfully pressured the BBC into reviewing its proposals for sports coverage on the BBC.
In addition to these triumphs, the Group focused on the delivery of the sport with Members being joined by the Rugby League European Federation, the England Head Coach Steve McNamara and Health Minister Paul Burstow during a meeting on State of Mind.
“But we cannot afford to be complacent” continued Mulholland. “Challenges remain for rugby league and we in the Group will continue to make the case for the sport to Parliament and to the Government.
“We don’t get our fair share of honours, we don’t receive coverage in national newspapers in relation to the size of the sport, and we still haven’t been recognises as the most welcoming for all people irrespective of background.
“We will continue to pursue these causes, and any others that might arise.”
As well as these public-facing activities, there has been much taking place behind the scenes to cement the work of the Group, make it more amenable to rugby league fans and make people more aware of its activities. Membership continued to grow, with 60 MPs and Peers from all political parties now in the Group and with a constitution adopted, there is now a formal role for Associate Members, whose numbers also increased over the year.
The Group now has a website containing information about its activities, members and upcoming meetings so people can see how Members of Parliament are supporting the game. More will be added over the course of 2012 as the Group prepares for its 25th Anniversary in 2013.
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