The Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League was launched in front of a capacity crowd at Anfield this week.
In what is believed to be the first example of a professional league sharing its brand with a learning disability sports programme, Super League and the Rugby Football League (RFL) have partnered with the national social care charity, Community Integrated Care, to create an adapted form of the game for people with learning disabilities and autism.
The new league is being backed by 12 major clubs – including Leeds Rhinos, St Helens, Widnes Vikings and Wigan Warriors – and has been integrated into the Super League calendar.
The official launch took place during the sport’s annual Dacia Magic Weekend event at the iconic home of Liverpool FC, and gave almost 160 people with learning disabilities the opportunity to play in front of 56,869 spectators during half-time of a headline fixture.
RFL Chief Executive Ralph Rimmer said: “Rugby league is always for everyone. This means everyone who wants to play our sport or be involved in it in other ways should be able to do so in the way that’s right for them.
“The Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League is a wonderful partnership. The Rugby Football League also looks forward to working with Community Integrated Care on volunteering opportunities, as the sport works together to ensure that all parts of rugby league are inclusive and welcoming.
“Playing at Anfield was a very special achievement for all players. I know that they and their loved ones enjoyed every minute, and they should feel very proud.”
The Learning Disability Super League has been praised by participants and their family members, social care sector organisations and the rugby league community for its impact in promoting inclusion and developing invaluable social and life skills of participants.
Mark Adams, CEO of Community Integrated Care, said: “We believe that the launch of the Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League at Anfield was one of the most significant moments in our 31-year history and an unprecedented success for the social care sector.
“We have been humbled and astounded by the impact this has made on players and their loved ones and the support that we’ve been given by the public. This has only been possible because of the values and commitment of Super League, the RFL, the clubs, and the entire rugby league family.
“This project delivers more than just the opportunity to participate in the great game of rugby league – it brings communities together, creating unforgettable opportunities and changes lives.”
Robert Elstone, CEO of Super League, added: “I am so proud of the Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League. The launch was inspirational and represented everything that Super League is about.
“Anyone who pulls on a Super League jersey is a special human being.”