In my 10 years working in the sports industry I have been lucky enough to work on a variety of sports including football, motorsport, rugby union, tennis and cricket. One sport that had evaded me until last year was rugby league, a sport that I only had a passing knowledge of. Since June ’17 I have immersed myself in all things rugby league through InCrowd’s relationship with the Rugby Football League (RFL). I’ve attended the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final, Betfred Super League Grand Final, visited most of the grounds in the Super League and met some great people along the way.
To say this sport has been a breath of fresh air to me would be an understatement. Rugby League can boast an enviably diverse fan base, competitiveness & entertainment, passion & pride and down to earth, approachable players invested in growing their sport.
So what makes rugby league so special, and how are we working with the RFL to engage their already voracious and loyal fans? Let me tell you about my most recent experiences with the sport….
I project managed InCrowd’s development of the RFL’s free membership platform and app, named Our League. The platform that encapsulates all things Rugby League, launched on the 16th October 2017. Our League evolved quickly providing a second screen experience during the Rugby League World Cup 2017 with exclusive live streaming and behind the scenes footage. It also produced over 1,000 winners via the “predict & win” competition including tickets, signed shirts and a trip to Australia to watch the World Cup final between England and Australia.
Since then, the benefits have extended to loyalty schemes, ticket discounts, more exclusive content and a recently created a player dashboard for players to see their stats and compared themselves with others in their league. The successful predict and win competition has extended in to the Betfred Super League season with nearly 14,000 players to date, while Our League members have control of the Betfred Man of the Match vote as presented during live Sky Sports broadcasts. Development is also underway to extend the match centre to include community leagues and there is far more to come in the near future to engage all corners of the Rugby League audience.
In January this year, I was lucky enough to attend the RFL season launch. Our League, and its importance in growing the sport between now and the UK hosted 2021 Rugby League World Cup featured in Interim CEO Ralph Rimmer’s keynote speech. Super League representatives from all clubs were in attendance. Players and coaches from all clubs were in attendance including 2017 Man of Steel Luke Gale, England World Cup star Jermaine McGillvary and Harry Sunderland Trophy winning Danny McGuire. After photos and press interviews the players took part in sponsor led challenges whilst coaches were quizzed on their hopes and expectations for the coming season.
I got the chance to speak to some of the World Cup predictor winners; Rob, James and Antony. They told me that they had played for fun and love of the game. They were extremely surprised to hear that their engagement in the predictor had culminated in such an amazing prize. That prize was 2 premium tickets to every major event this year including the England vs New Zealand series. The guys also recalled several pieces of content and polls that were published during the World Cup and spoke highly of the app’s user experience.
Antony said “my wife didn’t believe I had won and thought it was a scam. It’s a good job I didn’t win trip to Brisbane. I’d have had to choose between my wife and son!”
James took to Twitter to post the following:
The Future of Rugby League
I feel that one of the biggest challenges facing rugby league in the UK is the lack of awareness and engagement in the south. Rugby union dominates there and the annual Challenge Cup Final provides only a glimpse of what this sport has to offer. I took my 10-year-old nephew to the Challenge Cup Final, teaching him the rules on the journey and he thoroughly enjoyed the whole occasion. However, without my involvement he would not have known that this event, or maybe even the sport even existed.
The road ahead is challenging but I think that rugby league is on the cusp of grabbing more attention from media and commercial partners. This will be rewarding to see for the players and fans of this entertaining and inclusive sport and I am excited to join the RFL on this journey. 2018 is already shaping up to be an incredible season with entertaining matches and some unexpected results already. I’m very much looking forward to the remainder of the season complete with drama, passion and an ever growing audience.
To get involved in the action, you can download the Our League app now:
OurLeague Website: https://membership.rugby-league.com