Schools and community groups are today (19 April) being urged to bid for cash to help boost the profile of Rugby League in the Tees Valley, ahead of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 tournament coming to the region later this year.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen is calling on groups to apply for funding from the ‘CreatedBy’ small grants programme, which competition organisers have now relaunched after it was paused following the postponement of the contest due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The CreatedBy small grants programme has already made a significant contribution to growing the sport, with more than £1.6million granted to date benefitting 18,787 participants by providing kit, equipment and facility improvements, thanks to The National Lottery and Sport England.

Clubs and community organisations are being encouraged to make the most of a final opportunity to apply for a grant from the funding pot of at least £400,000 available. This will help grow the sport, get young people involved and active and leave a lasting legacy of rugby league in the region after the contest.

The tournament, which will now take place from 15 October to 19 November 2022 – including a match between the Cook Islands and Tonga at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium on 30 October – comes with a commitment from the government to invest in grass roots rugby league.

The excitement surrounding the event is already having an impact in our area, with Thunder Community delivering more than 500 hours of rugby coaching and development work in the Tees Valley, with an 83% growth of the game in 2021 resulting in almost 600 players.

The news comes as RLWC2021 has also launched an under-16 mascot competition for the tournament, with the winning designer receiving two tickets to the Men’s and Women’s finals at old Trafford on 19 November, and a chance to take their entire school class to another game.

The competition is looking for a mascot that encapsulates the spirit of the Rugby League World Cup. It should represent the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments, be eye catching and recognisable, fun and friendly, have a great name and backstory and represent the values of the tournament.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “There’s going to be plenty of Rugby League activity taking place across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool as we ramp up to welcoming the Cook Islands as a host location and their clash on 30 October, with the team getting out and about for engagements too.

“We want to make sure we keep up this momentum after the tournament too, and get people young and old involved in the great game. To help with this, schools and groups can take advantage of this funding to grow the love of the game and show it’s for everyone, not just in its traditional heartland of the North West.

“Great groups like the Yarm Wolves’ youth squads already compete in the area, and we’ve been working with others to spread the message in schools and run training sessions. If you’re keen to help leave a lasting legacy of the sport and help make the event the best it can be, check out the grants available.”

Jon Dutton, Chief Executive of RLWC2021, said: “We had to make the difficult decision to pause our small grants programme last year but, with less than 200 days to go until the rescheduled tournament begins, I’m delighted we are able to re-open this programme, allowing yet more organisations to benefit from a fund which has already made a significant difference in local clubs and communities.

“Thanks to the investment from The National Lottery players and Sport England, we have at least £400k to invest. We encourage any club or community organisation interested to make an application, particularly if the funding can be used to make improvements that focus on environmental sustainability that will help to reduce a club’s financial outgoings, or increase participation from girls, women, and disability sport.”

To apply for a CreatedBy small grant, visit https://www.rlwc2021.com/social-impact/capital-grants-funding