Earlier this year, Michael Lawrence, a professional rugby league player and Leeds Beckett University student was chosen to join the Rugby Football League’s (RFL) first ever inclusion board.

Michael, who plays for the Huddersfield Giants and is studying Sports Coaching at Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie School of Sport, meets with the inclusion board four times a year with a focus on diversity, inclusion and anti-discrimination. Its members are drawn from a wide range of backgrounds.

I felt proud and privileged to be appointed to the inclusion board. I believe it was the next step needed in rugby league. I believe that more needs to be done and actual action needs to be taken to help make positive changes. 

There are three main things the RFL inclusion board has been focusing on so far this year:

  • Increasing diversity through rugby league as a whole from the top to the bottom. We believe this work needs to start at grassroots level. A new grant scheme has been introduced to allow amateur clubs to apply for funding to help target underprivileged areas. This allows them to support players from diverse backgrounds who may not be able to afford to play Rugby League or pay for the equipment they need. We know that this is a big reason for a lack of involvement from various communities and hope that this help address it.
  • We are trying to increase knowledge about inclusion and diversity at a professional level through all members of staff and players. Inclusion Ambassadors will be appointed at each professional club before the beginning of next season – they will be the point of contact for any questions or queries around inclusion and diversity.
  • There has been an increase in inclusion and diversity on the disciplinary panel which oversees the disciplinary process in professional rugby league. There are now women and black men on the panel which has not happened before.

I believe these are major strides in the right direction and we will continue working to improve the diversity and inclusion in rugby league. This is something I’m passionate about and I’m looking forward to continuing to make a difference.