6 Oct 2022
Funding boost sees Sheffield Eagles expand wheelchair squad
Help from the CreatedBy programme has seen the South Yorkshire outfit broaden their provision
The Rugby League World Cup is coming to the steel city later this month and its impact has already made a valuable difference to the Sheffield Eagles Foundation.
Launched in 2001, the foundation has provided a charitable branch alongside the Sheffield Eagles rugby league team for over two decades and they are among the organisations to have benefited from the Rugby League World Cup’s CreatedBy campaign.
The initiative, established in partnership with the Rugby Football League, (RFL), the National Lottery, Sport England and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), has delivered £25 million worth of change to communities across England and the Eagles received a grant of almost £17,000 which allowed them to establish a wheelchair rugby league squad.
The club brought eight specialist wheelchairs with the money, with the team joining a league for the first time earlier this year.
“We launched the wheelchair team in June last year,” said foundation chair David Butler, 42.
“The grant allowed us to buy eight sport wheelchairs and some other equipment. For the rest of that year, we set up training and we started recruiting players from a variety of backgrounds.
“We’ve got non-disabled players who have been involved in rugby league before and people with disabilities who have always come to us and always fancied playing but never had the right sort of discipline to get involved in.
“We’ve got people who’ve come in from other sports, people who have done no sport, and they’re of all ages, both genders and it’s a real mix of people.
“It was very well received within the club. Immediately people realised that rugby league wasn’t about men playing the game under the banner of a professional club, we now had this wheelchair team and obviously things have evolved along with the other teams.
“It’s progressed hugely. The point we should always say is that without that CreatedBy grant funding, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
The team is yet to win a competitive match but performances and membership numbers have both been improving.
And Butler and the rest of the foundation hope there will soon be multiple wheelchair teams in action at the club as they look to expand their provision.
He added: “The idea is to ultimately field two teams, so we could have a more competitive team and a social team who have friendly games.
“We’ve got plans to play some women’s only games, we’re probably one of the only teams that can field a team of females in one go and that can field a team of under-18s as well.
“We’re going to explore some festival opportunities to give the women a go on their own and highlight the opportunity for more women to get involved."