Rugby League’s work on mental health recognised at European conference

MJ Black

The outstanding work being done in rugby league to tackle mental health issues, including Rugby League Cares’ recently-launched Offload project, was acknowledged at the 2017 European Healthy Stadia Conference in London this week.

The conference brings together officials from a wide range of sports and health practitioners across Europe to share best practice on how sports can use their facilities to influence the health and behaviour of fans and individuals living in their local communities.

At the conference, which was staged at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, RL Cares Health Programme Manager Emma Goldsmith presented details of the charity’s work to a sizeable and receptive audience.

Details of how the Offload project is making a difference to the lives of men who have signed up at the three clubs involved, Salford Devils, Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings, was particularly well received.

Offload has been designed by the experts at State of Mind, the charity that already carries out sterling work to promote positive mental fitness across Rugby League. It is run in partnership with Oddballs and delivered by the charitable foundations of the three professional clubs.

“It was a very successful day for everyone and we came away from the conference feeling very positive about the work we are doing,” said the Head of RL Cares, Chris Rostron.

“The room was packed for our breakout session and people were sitting on the floor because all the chairs were taken.

“What quickly became clear was how rugby league is regarded as a sport that is at the forefront of the work that’s being done to improve the health and wellbeing of its players, supporters and communities.

“It was particularly encouraging to be told by representatives from the Premier League that they are looking to mirror what we do with their work in football.

“We will be having discussions with the Premier League in the next few weeks and have also been contacted by the Scottish FA who are keen to find out more about what we do.

“For a sport such as rugby league with the challenges we face around resources, it’s very pleasing to be told that what we deliver is seen as best practice by the richest competition in world sport.”

Open to all men aged 16 and over, Offload involves participants engaging with current and former professional players and officials to learn techniques that rugby league clubs use to manage the mental and physical fitness of players.

Over the course of the 10-week ‘season of fixtures’, men build their own mental fitness with humour in a relaxed atmosphere and develop coping strategies to challenge difficult situations and learn how to recognise when people close to them may need their support.