England Women's head coach Craig Richards backs RFL's TACKLE IT programme
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 08/10/20 3:46pm
Craig Richards has praised the depth of the RFL's new TACKLE IT programme as the governing body aims to make rugby league a more inclusive sport.
The programme was launched on October 1 to coincide with the start of Black History Month but encompasses plans to make rugby league more accessible to all regardless of gender, sexuality, background or disability, as well as tackling racism.
England Women head coach Richards is delighted to see the governing body committing to making the sport more welcoming for all and is particularly pleased by the broad scope TACKLE IT embraces.
"Before it came out, I was a little bit worried because I thought 'surely, we're not just going to have a programme for people of colour?'," Richard told the Golden Point Podcast. "It was quite refreshing when I saw it.
"Don't get me wrong, in terms of Black Lives Matter and as a black person, we've spent the last few months really hurting with what has happened with George Floyd, but in terms of a national document it was important it touched on the real diversity of the sport and didn't just focus on one group of people.
"Yes, there is one group of people who are hurting at the moment, but in terms of a document let's not throw all of our eggs in one basket because we don't want to focus everything on people of colour, then in a year's time think we've ignored LGBTQ or disability when they needed help with something.
"I love the broadness of the programme and to make it work, the majority of the people, clubs and parts of the game need to buy into it, drive it and stay true to it."
Richards' own experiences in rugby league are mostly positive, from playing for - and later starting his coaching career alongside his brother Basil - at amateur club Queensbury to signing for home city club Bradford when he turned professional.
Being in a Bradford team with the likes of Roger Simpson, Richard Francis and Gerald Cordle helped too, but now the 50-year-old wants to see greater diversity in boardrooms and areas like the media and coaching roles.
He cited the presence of people like Dr Rimla Akhtar on the RFL board in helping to inspire people from a wide variety of backgrounds to become involved in the sport and is eager to see young black players encouraged to stay involved after they hang up their boots.
"I just think it's a conversation and this TACKLE IT programme kind of helps because somewhere in there, there will be conversations with young black players when they're making choices with their welfare officers thinking 'what is your plan for after rugby league'?" Richards said.
As a black person, we've spent the last few months really hurting with what has happened with George Floyd, but in terms in terms of a national document it was important it touched on the real diversity of the sport.
"I'd say it's very rare they'd say they want to stay in the game, so it might just be having that conversation of 'look, you're quite a smart player...have you ever thought about coaching, becoming a players agent?' or 'you speak really well, have you thought about working towards media and here is a course you could jump on'.
"It literally is planting the seeds in people's head about what they can aspire to be and then having the opportunity to go for that.
"I'm hesitant to force jobs on people, for me it's about getting the best man or woman to do the job because I love the game and I want the game to be in the best place possible, and to do that I want the best people to be in the best jobs to do that."
Richards holds himself to that high standard as well, knowing England's performance at next year's Rugby League World Cup will determine whether he stays on as head coach of the women's national team.
Whether he does or not, Richards is keen for his eventual successor to be a woman, citing Castleford Tigers women's head coach Lindsay Anfield and former Leeds Rhinos player Lois Forsell, now part of the international set-up, as possible candidates.
"People laugh, but I've got an obsession that the next England Women's head coach should be a woman," Richards said.
"It should be a Lindsay Anfield, who is one of the best women's players this country has ever produced and is now doing a fantastic job at Cas.
"If it isn't Lindsay let's have a look at Lois Forsell, but if either of them isn't good enough then does Craig Richards continue or do we bring in another male coach?
"That is my thought process - the best person, but you might aspire to have something in place that better suits."