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Rugby League’s top teams will be casting aside long-standing rivalries to launch a new joint initiative to reduce youth crime and violence.

The Rugby Football League (RFL) has been awarded £660,000 from the Youth Endowment Fund to launch and evaluate Inspiring Futures. This programme will help to prevent young people from getting caught up in violent crime through work in the classroom, local community and with their families.

The programme will be delivered by the charitable foundations of Hull FC, Leeds Rhinos, Warrington Wolves, Wigan Warriors, Leigh Centurions, St. Helens and Huddersfield Giants, and supported by the Rugby Football League (RFL).

Jon Yates, Executive Director of the Youth Endowment Fund, said: “Too many children have their lives blighted by violent crime. Across the country organisations are working hard to change this.  We’re delighted to partner with the Rugby Football League on this programme. With this money we can make a difference and learn lessons that can help across England and Wales.”

Ralph Rimmer, Chief Executive of the Rugby Football League, said: “Rugby League is committed as a sport to making lives better, and it is uniquely placed to do so. This great news is further recognition of the difference this sport makes in its communities. On behalf of the sport, the RFL is at the forefront of evidencing the value of the sport’s work in mental health, education, skills and community cohesion, as well as physical wellbeing through sport. This year we will continue to promote this social dividend, including speaking to Government and policy makers about increasing social mobility through Rugby League.

“We know that young people want and deserve direction, guidance and positive role models to look up to – and unfortunately what can happen in the absence of these things. Rugby League clubs are at the centre of their communities, with owners, coaches, volunteers and players all involved with local activity that benefits their town, city and region. With the support of the Youth Endowment Fund, we know that Rugby League will make an even bigger difference for young people.”

The Inspiring Futures programme will be made up of three strands: Educate, Aspire and Connect.

Educate will see coaches from the clubs’ foundations deliver assemblies in local secondary schools to 8,750 young people, aged 11 to 14, over the next two years. The sessions will use messages and media from professional Rugby League players to promote self-esteem, teamwork and well-being. Coaches will also work alongside these schools to run 12-week mentoring programmes to support young people with behavioural issues.

 Aspire will use a sports-based programme to develop the life-skills and confidence of 1,400 young people. The foundations will work with local crime prevention agencies to target anti-social behaviour hotspots, first-time offenders and young people at high-risk of offending.

Connect recognises the importance of strong family relationships in preventing young people engaging in crime and violence. The ten-week intensive therapy programme will work with 315 young people and their family members to strengthen relationships, develop resilience and improve communication.

The Youth Endowment Fund will evaluate the impact of the RFL’s Inspiring Futures programme and share the learning to support further early intervention projects across England and Wales.

Thomas Brindle, Head of Growth at the Rugby Football League, adds: “Rugby League Foundations are a force for good in communities often facing multiple disadvantages and challenges. This partnership brings together seven teams’ charitable foundations in an ambitious two-year programme to change the lives of some of the most vulnerable young people across the North of England. We’re thrilled the Youth Endowment Fund will fully evaluate this programme, so we can add to our learning and understanding around the impact Rugby League makes to individuals and communities.”

The Youth Endowment Fund supports and evaluates promising early interventions working with 10 to 14-year olds in England and Wales to prevent youth offending. It was established with an endowment of £200m over ten years from the Home Office. A total of 23 early intervention projects have now been awarded funding, totalling £17.1m and reaching over 36,000 children.