Andy Burnham hosted the RFL president’s ball in Leeds at the weekend, paying tribute to some of rugby league’s unsung heroes.
The president’s ball is annual highlight for the game, a glittering black-tie event at the Queens Hotel in Leeds’ City Square, where charities such as the Steve Prescott Foundation, and the RFL Benevolent Fund are celebrated.
More than £20,000 was raised for the Benevolent Fund on Saturday, in addition to a cheque for £48,000 was presented to the Fund by the Steve Prescott Foundation.
Burnham’s presidency will continue to feature a similar combination of ceremony and grassroots.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester was eager to highlight his role in the review of youth rugby league for teenagers and the first-hand experience of playing Masters Rugby League for Wigan-based club Golborne Parkside.
Burnham commented: “One of the things I really wanted to do coming into this role was shine a light on the grassroots game.
“My son played the game a few years ago, so I got to see the community game in all its glory – and I really mean that, because these community clubs are so important, not only for talent production in rugby league, but in terms of producing strong young characters, and the contribution they make to their communities.
“I think the game at that level is in good health – we’ll see that in the First Round of the Challenge Cup later this month, when the community clubs get their weekend in the spotlight. I’ve loved the BBC coverage of some of these games in recent years – clubs like Miners in Leigh, St Pats in Wigan, and loads of others have had the national spotlight shone on them, and this year it’s going to be Millom up in Cumbria playing Red Star Belgrade. It’s fair to say you wouldn’t see that fixture in any other sport!
“But there’s also a reality that those clubs need constant support. The Legacy Programme for the 2021 World Cup is going to provide more investment in facilities, and the 12-18s review is another part of seeing what we can do to strengthen the community game. I’m very passionate about that.
“Masters Rugby League is something else that’s made a big impact on me in these first six months. I played in a Festival at Crosfields in Warrington for Golborne Parkside, my local club, and it was a pretty amazing experience.”