RFL chief executive Nigel Wood has hailed the recent growth of rugby league, with the sport’s popularity now at an all-time high.
Wood points to recent increases in the number of people who watched the sport in 2013, as well as a growth in participation numbers as evidence for his claims.
According to Wood, more commercial partners are being drawn to the game, and the new structures in the sport next season will make “every minute matter for every rugby league club.”
He also indicated the success of the World Cup last year, with half a million tickets sold, along with a world record crowd for the final at Old Trafford.
The World Cup also saw eight games sell out, and recorded a 76 percent occupancy rate in the stadiums, both in the sport’s heartlands and around Europe.
Wood also told the sport’s Annual General Meeting, held this week in St Helens, that the RFL was working closely with other partners to “produce an improved calendar for international competition that will benefit the national team.”
“Rugby League has an opportunity in 2015 to embrace an exciting new league format where every professional club can see a clear pathway to make progress and where resources are shared proportionately around the sport,” said Wood.
“In addition youth and Academy Rugby League now has a clear direction of travel. It is in all of the games interests to engage more youngsters in playing the sport and keep more of these youngsters within the sport in the appropriately organised competition frameworks to ensure that each and every child has the best possible chance to develop their potential to the full.”
Almost 39 million people watched rugby league last year, either at the stadium or live on television. That figure is apparently up by 40 percent on the previous year.
Participation numbers in the 16-19 age group rose by 16 percent, whie at adult level there was a 52 percent increase, and university participation increased bby 20 percent.
“At the top end of the game, we are convinced that the new formats across the three leading divisions, First Utility Super League, Kingstone Press Championship and Kingstone Press Championship One will provide an environment in which every minute in every competition will matter for all clubs, fans and other stakeholders in the game,” Wood added.
“The game has been strong enough to make some brave decisions and create an environment for our clubs to prosper. Rugby League is now in a strong position and looking forwards with confidence and optimism.”
The AGM also confirmed the appointment of Andrew Farrow as RFL President for 2014-2015, when Dr Paul Morgan will be Vice President.
The RFL also made a profit for the 12th successive year financial year. For the 2013 financial year, profit was £120,000, generated from a record turnover of £34 million.
That profit of £120,000 was almost double the figure of the previous year. Every year since 2001, the RFL has returned positive financial figures.