Each month we feature an inspirational individual or team who overcome barriers to make a real difference in their communities. This month we feature the Learning Disability Super League, the world’s first ever example of a professional sports league sharing its brand with a learning disability sports programme.
Super League and the Rugby Football League have partnered with the national social care charity Community Integrated Care to create a pioneering inclusive sports programme for people with learning disabilities and autism.
The Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League gives people with learning disabilities and autism the opportunity to play an adapted version of Rugby League. The programme aims to promote the development of skills, confidence and positive experiences, and make a major statement about social inclusion. This world-first initiative is the first ever example of a professional sports league sharing its brand with a learning disability sports programme.
The inclusive competition has been supported by 12 founder clubs, who have established or will be developing Learning Disability Rugby League teams: Castleford Tigers, Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR, Leeds Rhinos, Newcastle Thunder, Salford Red Devils, St Helens, Wakefield Trinity, Warrington Wolves, Widnes Vikings, Wigan Warriors and York City Knights.
Learning Disability Rugby League is a specially adapted non-competitive game, which focuses on encouraging participation and skills development. To support the success of this programme, Community Integrated Care is providing specialist training to all participating clubs, as well as direct investment into the sport.
The launch of the programme, which took place in May, gave almost 160 people the opportunity to play in front of tens of thousands of people at the famous home of Liverpool F.C. Playing in the halftime slot of the headline fixtures of the Dacia Magic Weekend, the Learning Disability Super League teams took centre stage at the event, which was attended by 56,869 people.
Players were roared on from the stands by supporters from across the sport, who cheered them on as Super League heroes. The launch of this world first programme attracted unprecedented media attention for a social care inclusion project, with content from the event achieving more than 300,000 video views and 1 million impressions on Twitter over the weekend. Messages of support from Super League players and legends, coaches, celebrities and the general public flooded social media, as the rugby league family fully embraced the initiative.
The Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League teams were also given the opportunity to play in the shadows of Anfield Stadium, in special festivals at Stanley Park. The programme has been praised by participants and their family members, social care sector organisations and the rugby league community for its impact in promoting inclusion and developing invaluable social and life skills of participants. Speaking at the event, many players described their experience as “a dream come true” and “life-changing”.
Community Integrated Care is one of Britain’s biggest and most successful social care charities, supporting over 3500 people who have learning disabilities, autism, mental health concerns and dementia across England and Scotland. The charity has developed several pioneering sports and social care programmes with Rugby League clubs that have been recognised at the National Dementia Care Awards, 3rd Sector Care Awards and the Great British Care Awards.
As the Official Social Care Partner of Super League and the RFL, the charity is leading the development of a range of programmes that will use Rugby League to transform the lives of people who require care and support.