League 13: Standing up for the players

We, at League 13, are delighted to have been asked to produce a blog for Love Rugby League. In the first of these blogs, it would probably be best to let you know what League 13 is and what we do.

It has now been nearly two years since League 13 was first formed. Although we started from very small beginnings, we have now grown our membership significantly and we are beginning to exert some real influence in the sport of rugby league. This hasn’t happened in the sport for a long time and we are delighted that the players are now embracing their careers by joining League 13.

It is a players’ association created by the players for the players.

The primary reason in creating League 13 was to improve the lives of professional players playing rugby league in Super League and for them to influence their own careers. We have seen first-hand the way that some players had been treated in the sport and we had become frustrated that nothing changed. We wanted to give the players a voice, to improve their working lives for the better and protect them as much as possible.

Although we started with very little, League 13 has continued to grow and now offers to all of its members free legal cover up to the value of £50,000. This is a fantastic benefit of being a League 13 member and one that we are happy to commend to all players within Super League. This is not something that is offered by any other organisation and is solely for the benefit of League 13 members.

The men who play rugby league are special athletes and we have always been of the view that they deserve to receive special treatment and care for playing the sport. I have worked tirelessly in trying achieve this unique opportunity for the members of League 13, in conjunction with John Fosbery of Mattinson Ginty & Partners (MGP). League 13 and MGP have been able to produce this unique insurance policy that will provide protection for all League 13 members. The cost of the policy is met by League 13, but is available to all full members, and has been put together solely for the benefit of League 13 and its members.

This is just an example of the great work that League 13 has been carrying out on behalf of the players and one of the many benefits to being a member. As a consequence, Mike Rush, the Chief Executive Officer at St. Helens, was keen to explore different ways to look after players, starting from the moment they begin their full time careers, and to support them in any way possible to maintain the player’s well-being away from the game. He approached League 13 to work together with us, in partnership, to try and improve the conditions for the players. This involved initial meetings with player representatives from St. Helens and gauging their views about how help could be provided.

League 13 had already carried out a player survey with our members and, as a consequence, liaisons then took place with key individuals to address issues highlighted in the player survey. A pilot scheme ran between 2012 and 2013.
The results of the pilot scheme were extremely positive and provided us and St. Helens with important feedback from the players, in the form of completed questionnaires as well as from face to face interviews. 

We have been able to understand key areas of concern for the players, identify those who are at risk and could benefit from proper financial planning, as well as those who are in a strong financial position and assist with career transition planning across a variety of options.  This has now given us a vital starting point for which to start to provide additional benefits that can help secure the players’ financial and career future in the long term.

We were delighted when a further request was made by Mike Rush for League 13 to continue to develop and enhance, where possible, the project we started last year. This year we are going to embrace the 16-19 year old AASE scholarship and academy players. There are also a number of new areas that we are seeking to address and we will continue to develop these with St. Helens, although we hope that a player pathway can be introduced throughout Super League across all of the clubs.

These are some of the more specific areas that League 13 has benefitted its members. We continue to have regular meetings with the RFL about player welfare and those meetings will continue. We believe that we have developed a strong and lasting relationship with the RFL and we hope to develop this further in time. Nevertheless, we have already had a number of successes with regards to the improvement of working conditions for players.

Perhaps the most important aspect of League 13 is that it is the players\’ own association. It was created by the players for themselves. Each year they have the opportunity to attend at the AGM and express their views on how they want League 13 to move forward. Although there have been opportunities previously for players to be part of a group, they haven’t had the same democratic say in the running of their own bespoke, players’ association. It is something that they should be very proud of and embrace.

We will continue to explore further opportunities to improve the working conditions of players at training and when playing and we will continue with our commitment to provide the best care for players off the field, whether it be for their mental well-being or planning for a career after rugby league. That is a commitment we made to the players when League 13 was first formed and one that we intend to honour.

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