The Rugby Football League has today launched ‘These Girls Can’ – the latest report in its Impact Series. ‘These Girls Can’ looks at the wider social impacts of the growth of Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League in the recent period.

The RFL also confirm that the Grand Final for the 2021 Betfred Women’s Super League will be played at Emerald Headingley on Sunday October 10 – and broadcast live by Sky Sports.

Clare Balding OBE, RFL President; “If you could bottle increased self-esteem and aspiration, career-goals, body-confidence, fitness and a sense of purpose – you would. That’s what developing and supporting Girls’ and Women’s Rugby League does. It has positive impacts on the girls and women who play – on and off the pitch – and it is changing the whole sport of Rugby League and its communities. I am pleased to introduce this report on behalf of the RFL and its members and every volunteer who has worked so hard to grow this part of the sport.”

The report launches on the same day that the RFL announces a new two-year commercial partnership with The National Lottery to support the growth of Women’s Rugby League.

The RFL also confirm that the Grand Final for the 2021 Betfred Women’s Super League will be played at Emerald Headingley on Sunday October 10 – and broadcast live by Sky Sports.

The popularity of Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League is at an all-time high with the number of women and girls playing community Rugby League increasing by 53% since 2017. Prior to the pandemic which saw the 2020 season all but wiped out, the growth has been across the age spectrum with a 23% increase in under 12s playing in mixed gender competitions, an 85% increase in 12- to 16-year-olds playing in girls’ competitions and a 36% increase in over 16s playing in women’s competitions. This progress also extends beyond playing with a 359% increase in female coaches, a 113% in female volunteers and a 43% increase in female match officials, all since 2017.

‘These Girls Can’ key findings include:

91% believe that the profile of the Women’s and Girls’ game is rising.
Players appreciate the work of their clubs and Foundations, the governing body, and commercial partners to grow the game.
But only 12% feel the sport gets the recognition it deserves.
74% feel the women’s and girls’ game does not have the resources it needs to grow.
99% would like to see more effort go into growing and supporting of the women’s game by everyone in the sport.
91% said Rugby League makes them feel part of the community.
90% of players and 78% of coaches and volunteers claimed Rugby League has improved their self-confidence including body confidence.
90% of players reported improved mental wellbeing as a consequence of playing Rugby League.
97% of players reported improved fitness and physical wellbeing.
86% of women’s and girls’ players said Rugby League has provided them with role models.
Participants recognised the role the sport played in providing a safe refuge for young women who have experienced a difficult home environment; the discipline and accountability of the sport providing structure and stability to their lives.
Rugby League is raising educational and career aspirations as well as sporting aspirations amongst girls and young women.
The 2019 Rugby League Dividend Report created a Social Impact formula* to identify the economic estimation of the social value of Rugby League. Within this report it has been determined that the social value per female player is £409.60 and the social return of £4.06 for female players. This evidences the positive contribution the sport of Rugby League makes currently in England in terms of its social impact and return on investment specifically for women and girls.

Ralph Rimmer, CEO, The RFL; “At the end of 2021 the women’s and girls’ game needs to re-emerge to not only pre-pandemic levels but to enter into 2022 growing in all areas – players, teams, locations, profile, reach and partners. This new report demonstrates exactly why we must do everything we can to maintain the momentum in Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League – and we will. The RFL is delighted that The National Lottery shares this vision and will be supporting the governing body with a unique Women’s Rugby League partnership for 2021-2023. Thank you to them and to Sport England, DCMS and Betfred for their continued commitment and support.

“This report shows how important it is to give Women’s Rugby League the highest possible profile so I am delighted that we can announce that the 2021 Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final on 10th October will be held at the Emerald Headingley stadium and broadcast live on Sky.

“This follows last week’s announcement that England Women will face Wales in June as the first part of an historic double header with the England men’s team, again live on Sky Sports, as both prepare for the Rugby League World Cup on home soil later this year.”

The ‘These Girls Can’ report has been undertaken by the RFL and cross-referenced by Manchester Metropolitan University and includes forewords from Clare Balding OBE, RFL President, and Stephanie Hilborne, CEO Women in Sport. Primary research was carried out via new survey of players, coaches, parents, and a range of other key stakeholders in the sport, alongside a large-scale series of consultation interviews. The results were analysed and cross-referenced. Thank you to all players, parents, officials, volunteers, media and commercial partners, and club and Foundation staff who supported this work.