RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood believes Rugby League stands on the verge of the most exciting chapter in its history as the sport prepares to embrace all the benefits of summer rugby with a new integrated structure.
From this Saturday, the first grassroots competitions will join the Stobart Super League and Co-operative Championships in kicking off seasons that will face minimal disruption from harsh British winters.
As of March 3, more than 85 per cent of all Rugby League teams in the country will be playing in a summer-based season which runs from March to November and covers all levels of the sport.
“This is a momentous occasion for Rugby League with the whole sport finally fitting together under one pyramid structure which has positive implications for the future,” said Wood.
“For the first time the entire sport from Super League right down to the grassroots has an integrated summer-based playing calendar which covers both the professional and community games.
“This means that youngsters will play their entire careers in better conditions which are more suitable for modern Rugby League with all the benefits this brings for skill development and, more importantly, for enjoyment of the game.
“The changes will result in an increase in the number of people playing Rugby League, which is an objective everyone in the sport is working towards.
“More participants means we will produce more high quality players, thus benefitting the national team in the long term.
“There will be more opportunities for more people to play Rugby League across the country in a structure which allows all clubs and players the chance to progress to be the best they possibly can be.”
The newly-aligned structure of the men’s game features Super League at Tier One, the Championships at Tiers Two, the Conference leagues at Tier Three and regional leagues at Tier Four.
From March 2012 1,586 teams will be playing in a summer-based season, a total which represents 86 per cent of all players and 91 per cent of all youth and junior teams.
419 senior teams and 1,167 youth and junior teams are involved in this structure.
The existing winter-based competitions are also incorporated into Tier Four of the structure and will continue to be administrated and supported as they are at present.
The Tier Three Conference Premier, First and Second Divisions kick off the new era on Saturday.
Tier Four contains summer-based regional leagues across all age groups throughout the country and these leagues will kick off at different times in March and April with some of the bigger leagues such as Yorkshire Juniors also kicking off this weekend.
The regional leagues at Tier Four continue to expand the sport geographically with 419 men’s teams playing this year and a number of new clubs including teams based in Milton Keynes, Letchworth Garden City and Ashington.
Rugby League, Sport As It Should Be.
For more information on the switch to summer including a diagram outlining the new structure visit: www.abrighterleague.com