FEATURE29 July 2019

League loyalties

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Features Impact Leisure & Arts UK

Rugby League may not have the reach of Union, but its customer and insight director, Alison O’Brien, tells Rob Gray how she’s ensuring the sport grows its viewing figures and participation rates

Australia_v_New Zealand

One of the great schisms in the history of sport took place at a Huddersfield hotel in 1895, when the leading rugby clubs from Yorkshire and Lancashire decided to split from the Rugby Football Union in a dispute over payments to players and governance issues. This rift led to the evolution of two rugby codes and, eventually, triggered the formation of the Rugby Football League (RFL) to administer the 13-a-side version of the game.

Today in the UK, the game’s heartland remains the north of England, and a rich heritage bound up with a strong regional identity is, without question, a compelling aspect of its appeal. At the same time, this is a modern and global sport that’s powering forward on a mission to attract even greater support.

The Rugby League World Cup will take place in England during October and November 2021 – and, for the first time, the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions will form part of the same huge ...