Rugby league needs to improve welfare provision, according to report

By Ryan Goodwin, Sports Editor


Rugby League needs to improve the welfare provision for the mental health of its players, according to a report by the University of Huddersfield.

It’s a sport in which participants put their bodies on the line every week and frequently collect physical injuries, yet the hard men of rugby are also vulnerable to mental health problems. The likes of stress and depression among players can be eased when their club has a trained specialist to offer advice and counselling, but the macho culture of the game means that not all Super League clubs are equally committed to supporting player welfare managers, according to the university’s research.

The study was done earlier this year and was further conducted in association with the Rugby Football League, which has now pledged that the findings will be used to build upon its policies to improve the welfare of Super League players.

Dr. Alison Rodriguez – who headed the study – said: “This research has highlighted the assets of current welfare provision in the RFL and also the ways in which the RFL can work with its players, welfare managers and wider club staff to further improve player welfare. The RFL are serious about player welfare and is already taking this research forward, building upon their robust welfare policy.”

The study further saw 103 players take part in an online survey, in which they answered questions on topics such as the player welfare provision at their club, mental health and stress.

“Players’ mental health is better when their club has a good player welfare manager in place and have received advice on counselling support available from Sporting Chance,” said Dr. Rodriguez, referring to the clinic set up by association football star Tony Adams and the Professional Footballers’ Association, mainly to deal with issues of addiction.

The university’s survey also probed the issue of “athletic identity” and how players would cope with their retirement from the sport.

From a sample of 86 players, 50 answered a question on the advantages of retirement, with 22 per cent stating it enabled them to spend more time to spend with their family and friends and an end to physical pain.

But 55 players out of 86 answered a question on the downsides of retirement. 20 per cent admitted there would be adjustment issues when retiring from the sport with a further 18 per cent citing there would be financial problems when they finish playing.

“These results suggest that the higher the psychological stress, and the more players identify with the athlete role, the worse their mental health, whereas favourable attitudes towards player welfare managers and the player welfare policy are associated with better mental health,” said Dr. Rodriguez.

Rugby Football League Welfare Director, Emma Rosewarne further said: “I’d like to thank the University of Huddersfield for their help in this research, which has given players an anonymous way to express their views on player welfare – which is incredibly important.

“It’s been a great opportunity for the player welfare managers from the different clubs to talk about welfare provision confidentially and voice their opinions on how we can improve this.

“We will be using what we found from the survey. Next year we will be putting those results into practice and we are taking action to continue to improve the roll out of this vital policy. Players’ participation in the research for this is absolutely essential and it’s great that they are on board with it.”} else {