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The Government has advised all people aged 70 and over to avoid social contact for 12 weeks, raising the prospect that some former players and their families could be left feeling isolated and lonely.
To support the game’s elderly heroes, RL Cares is working alongside the RFL and club foundation staff to recruit a team of dedicated volunteers who can reach out to vulnerable past players in their local communities.
The volunteers will be drawn predominantly from foundation and club staff, many of whom have already undergone the required training and safety checks needed to work with vulnerable people.
Former players and members of the public are being asked to contact RL Cares to let the charity know of any individual who might need support at this difficult time.
Once we have been informed, RL Cares will liaise with clubs to identify a suitable volunteer ‘buddy’ who will then make contact with the former player to offer the help they need: this might be doing shopping for essential supplies, arranging medical support or simply opening up regular lines of communication.
The past players’ support programme is being led for RL Cares by Francis Stephenson, the former Wakefield, London and Wigan prop, alongside the charity’s Transition Manager, Steve McCormack.
“This is an incredibly challenging time for all of us but is especially difficult for the elderly within our communities,” said Francis.
“As a charity we are well-placed to coordinate and deliver the support that the more senior members of the Rugby League family require to them through this.
“Some people might want their shopping doing, other may just need to hear a friendly voice on the end of the telephone. Whatever our past players need, we want them to know that the sport is here for them.”
RFL Chief Executive Ralph Rimmer said: “This is a typically thoughtful initiative from Rugby League Cares, and one which I’m sure the whole game will welcome and support.
“Challenging times bring the best out of our Rugby League community, and there have been many examples of that in the current unprecedented situation that has arisen in our 125th year as a sport.
“So many of our players have been unsung heroes, and it is reassuring to know that RL Cares are there to offer support if and when required.”
If you are a retired player who requires assistance, or are a member of the public who is aware of one of the sport’s heroes who may be struggling, please contact Rugby League Cares, details below. All contact will be treated with strictest confidence.
Phone: Chris Rostron, Head of RL Cares: 07917 282322