Community rugby clubs in St Helens will be invited to bid for a slice of a £1 million pot aimed at helping grow the grassroots game.
Earlier this year St Helens was announced as one of 21 hosts to stage matches at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
As well as hosting three group matches at Saints’ Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens has also been selected as a training location for two yet-to-be announced nations.
Subsequently, this has opened up access to the multi-million-pound Community Legacy programme to help grow rugby league in the borough.
On Wednesday, St Helens Council’s cabinet agreed to contribute £500,000 from its community improvement reserve to establish a Rugby League World Cup 2021 St Helens Legacy Fund.
The money will provide the match funding required for projects seeking ‘Createdby’ RLWC2021 legacy funding.
A cabinet report says council officers have met with officials from the Rugby Football League and St Helens RL Foundation to identify potential projects.
The ambition would be to deliver at least one project in each of the 11 clubs in the borough between 2019 and 2021.
Potential projects include improvements to grass pitches and changing rooms, clubs taking ownership of facilities, improved access and spectator facilities and new equipment.
The cabinet report says initial discussions with funders have indicated that, subject to the submission of viable funding bids, they would be in a position to support projects with a total value of £1 million.
Cllr Anthony Burns, cabinet member for public health, leisure and libraries, said by investing the money, the council is pledging to improve the environment of grassroots players and influence the next generation of rugby league stars.
“Our town has left a legacy to international rugby league history,” Cllr Burns said.
“This funding will help to leave a future legacy for the next crop of players who one day may be able to pull on an England shirt and represent their country and their town in a future World Cup.”
He added: “We’re proud to have a world-famous rugby league team here in St Helens, head and shoulders above the rest, both on and off the pitch.
“The World Cup will provide further opportunity to raise the borough’s profile and reinforce St Helens’ place on the map nationally and internationally, as some of the world’s most famous rugby stars grace the hallowed turf of the Totally Wicked Stadium, and supporting the council’s objectives for raising aspirations in the borough.”
Thatto Heath councillor Richard McCauley, cabinet member for economic regeneration and housing, said the funding will “positively” affect rugby league volunteers across the borough.
Cllr McCauley. who is a trustee and committee member for Thatto Heath Crusaders, said he hopes clubs will receive help with putting together bids.
In response, Cllr Burns said the council will facilitate help with bids.
St Helens Council leader David Baines said it was good to see how the cash will be invested back into the borough’s community clubs.
The Labour leader added that being chosen as a RLWC2021 host was a “fantastic coup” for St Helens.