Rugby League’s progress towards becoming a truly inclusive sport will be driven by a new RFL Inclusion Board announced today (2 February).
The board has been established as part of the game-wide commitment to diversity, inclusion, and anti-discrimination campaigning, announced last Autumn. Its members are drawn from a wide range of backgrounds such as education, media, business and retail, and include well-known Rugby League personalities Michael Lawrence of Huddersfield Giants and Alex Simmons, formerly of Rugby AM and currently head of diversity with the Leeds-based Inter-Marketing Agency.
Together they will oversee progress against TACKLE IT – Rugby League versus Discrimination the ambitious and far-reaching action plan which sets out how Rugby League will extend its reach and appeal, diversify its talent pool, improve its culture and actively deal with discrimination.
RFL Chair Simon Johnson says:
“Through TACKLE IT the whole game has made a commitment to meet discrimination head on and break down any barriers to involvement in Rugby League. The new Inclusion Board members can help make sure this happens and I am delighted to welcome them to the RFL. They are all enthusiastic champions of diversity, inclusion, equality and anti-discrimination campaigning, and will be a tremendous asset to our sport both as individuals and as a group.
“TACKLE IT is an action plan developed by the game, for the game – the result of listening and learning from people across Rugby League. Their insight, honesty and commitment got us to this point, from here on it’s down to all of us to deliver.
“I’ve been asked ‘what does success look like?’. It is a game that is fully representative of its communities, and where we make the most of the immense talent, passion, skills and experience which exists. This work complements, and accelerates, our work on the gender balance in our sport, and LGBQT and disability inclusion.”
Inclusion Board members are:
- Mr Aaqil Ahmed – Media Consultant
- Ms Aisha Suleiman – Education Programme Manager, Amazon Web Services; Chair and Executive Board Lead, Amazon Black Employee Network
- Mr Alex Simmons – Alex Simmons, formerly of Rugby AM and currently head of diversity with In Diverse Company and Operations Director for Jamaica men’s Rugby League team .Mr Chris Gibbons – Director, Inside Inclusion
- Mr John Hughes – Director of Partnerships and Communities, Community Integrated Care
- Mr Michael Lawrence – Professional Rugby League player, Huddersfield Giants
- Ms Nikunj Upadhyay – Group Head of Inclusion and Diversity, Wates Group
- Dr Rimla Akhtar MBE – RFL Non-Executive Director and Inclusion Board Chair
The RFL received a high volume of expressions of interest in board member positions. Members are expected to:
- reflect, collectively, the diversity of people involved in Rugby League;
- be influential and respected for championing Inclusion, Equality and Anti-Discrimination in the wider world;
- act as advocates for the RFL and Rugby League’s Inclusion, Equality and Anti-Discrimination work;
- bring together, collectively, experience from across the professional and grassroots game, including the application of successful interventions;
- be strategic and visionary, with the capacity to guide practical implementation; and
- be able to challenge and provide constructive guidance to the RFL and Rugby League on inclusion, equality and anti-discrimination.
The board will meet four times a year. Members will serve two-year terms, after which they will be eligible for reappointment.
By Joshua Chapman