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Rugby league participation is soaring in Coventry thanks to the success of a community programme

The number of people playing the sport in the city has increased from just 270 people in 2015 to more than 2,700 people over the past 12 months – an increase of 1,000 per cent.

Coventry Bears’ new Sport England funded five-a-side touch rugby initiative – called Bears 5s – has attracted 1,700 people, while the SKY TRY programme has engaged 1,100 school children in touch rugby skills and drills.

This has included Coventry Bears first team players such as James Geurtjens, Jamahl Hunte and Kieran Sheratt delivering coaching sessions all around Coventry in schools, parks, leisure centres and festivals.

Both initiatives fall under Coventry’s City of Rugby initiative, which aims to make the city a world leader at every level of the sport by 2023.

Two new community clubs of ‘Summer Rugby League’ activity have now been launched in the city to sustain the Bears 5s and SKY TRY programmes between March and September.

This includes the West Coventry Satellite Club, based at the Xcel Leisure Centre, and the East Coventry Satellite Club, at the Alan Higgs Centre, which will hold rugby league activities throughout the summer for the whole family.

Alan Robinson, managing director at the Coventry Bears, said:

One of the most important aspects of the sport is that it is accessible to play by anyone and almost anywhere, and this rapid growth suggests that we are heading in that direction.

Bears 5s has not just grown, but also adapted the sport to meet the needs of different types of participants ranging from ex-rugby players who want full contact, to female only games including more fitness activities.

We believe these new community clubs will be ideal to build upon the solid foundations that have been laid over the past couple of years.

Bears 5s will also continue at the Alan Higgs Centre on Mondays at 8pm with mixed sessions (age 14+), female only and for boys aged 11 to 15 all outdoors on the 3G pitch.

The Xcel Leisure Centre is also hosting a mixed Bears 5s session (age 14+) on Fridays at 6pm, and will see other sessions running at the same time such as Cub Club for three to 10 year olds and junior training for boys aged 11 to 15.

Tom Clift is programme manager of Engage! Coventry, a city-wide initiative which uses the core values of rugby to provide social and educational benefits as a way of developing healthy, well-rounded, confident young people. He said:

The City of Rugby initiative is proud to have Coventry Bears and the Bears 5’s pilot programme as part of our first community programme.

This new investment into rugby league across Coventry has generated a fantastic level of interest across various different demographics, and we look forward to supporting the Bears as the pilot moves forwards into its two new hubs.