Marking the power of sport on International Women’s Day – Alliance and female pioneers of Rugby League welcome TRH the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh in Leeds

THR Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh with Sport and Recreation Alliance and girls from Rugby League ()

The Sport and Recreation Alliance, this morning (8 March), welcomed the President of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, Duke of Edinburgh and HRH the Duchess of Edinburgh at Headingley Stadium in Leeds, ahead of the Community Sport and Recreation Awards 2024.

The Duke of Edinburgh, Alliance President, and the Duchess of Edinburgh joined the Alliance and hosts at Headingley Stadium Leeds Rhinos and the Rugby Football League, for a special International Women’s Day visit meeting the female pioneers of rugby league – past, present and future – to learn more about the positive impact and role of rugby league and, more broadly, grassroots sport and recreation in creating better opportunities for girls and women around the country.

The Alliance’s CEO Lisa Wainwright MBE and Chair Dame Janet Beer, Alliance President, were joined by hosts Tony Sutton, CEO of the Rugby Football League, Lois Forsell, Women’s Head Coach for Leeds Rhinos, to discuss trailblazing history of the club and sport.


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The Duke and Duchess spoke with Julia Lee, first female referee of British rugby league, and ex-England pioneer Lisa McIntosh for a launch of ‘The Pioneering Years Project – a project dedicated to recognising the incredible women who paved the way for women’s rugby league today.

Headingley Stadium pitch this morning was also host to 40 young female players from local schools for International Women’s Day training session – the Duke and Duchess met with England and Leeds Rhinos player Amy Hardcastle and IWG for Women & Sport Secretary General Lisa O’Keefe, before engaging with many of the young players to talk about what playing sport means to them.


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Lisa Wainwright MBE, Alliance CEO:

‘It is an absolute honour to host TRH The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh on this very special double header of International Women’s Day and the Community Sport and Recreation Awards.’

‘Sport and Recreation is the lifeblood of our nation’s communities. By keeping people active and participating in community grassroot sport, clubs and organisations around the country contribute invaluably to the health and happiness of our nation.

‘Our sector in particular increasingly strives to enable and empower women and girls, supporting the breaking down of barriers both in sport and through sport –  and we will continue to work hard to ensure our sector provides a natural home for women and girls in the UK and Internationally.’

Tony Sutton, CEO of the RFL:

“On behalf of the sport, and also Leeds Rhinos, it has been an honour to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh to Headingley as we celebrate International Women’s Day – and also the 2024 Community Sport and Recreation Awards.

“We were grateful for the opportunity to share with the Duke and Duchess the journey of Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League, with the trailblazing referee Julia Lee and one of our first women’s Hall of Fame inductees Lisa McIntosh reflecting on the sacrifices made by the pioneers of the Great Britain Lionesses several decades ago, and the current England international Amy Hardcastle then joining Lois Forsell and other members of the Leeds Rhinos Foundation as schoolgirls from Leeds West Academy, Cockburn School and Mount St Mary’s relished the opportunity of a training session on the Headingley pitch."