SAINTS Women's captain Jodie Cunningham has put her voice to the campaign urging political parties to support school sport and sports facilities.

Tony Sutton, the Chief Executive of the RFL, has joined his counterparts at the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Football Association, the Lawn Tennis Association and the Rugby Football Union in sending an open letter to the UK’s political parties urging them to set out their vision for sport in the General Election campaign.

The letter - published below - sets out two priorities the five sports would like to see addressed: 1) the amount of quality Sport and Physical Education mandated within the National Curriculum; and 2) a commitment from political leaders to building on the progress that has been made recently through Government investment in good quality facilities.

Tony Sutton said: “The first eight days of June will show the depth and range of Rugby League’s impact – from the Wheelchair Challenge Cup Final in Sheffield last Saturday, to the four Finals at Wembley this weekend.

"They will include the second Women’s Challenge Cup Final at Wembley, and the annual highlight of the Year 7 Boys Final, this time featuring schools from Wigan and Cardiff, relishing the opportunity to play on Wembley’s grand stage.

“Rugby League will continue to deliver, and to make a positive social impact in areas where it is most needed – but as we stressed in the National Facilities Strategy published last month, we can only do that with continued Government recognition of sport’s unmatched ability to make a difference.”

Jodie Cunningham, the England Women captain who will again lead St Helens at Wembley in tomorrow’s Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final against Leeds Rhinos, added: “I’ve been on an amazing journey with Rugby League, from starting a girls’ team at school in Warrington and then in the last decade from playing in park pitches with Thatto Heath to captaining Saints at Wembley.

“The number of girls we have wanting to play now is incredible – but the lack of suitable facilities can still be a big issue.

“And while I was lucky at school in terms of the support and time we had to do PE and sport, I know that’s the exception not the rule.

“Our sport can change lives – I want it to be able to do even more.”

Tom Halliwell OBE, the captain of England’s Wheelchair World Cup winners in 2022, said: “Rugby League has had a massive positive impact on my life, from playing the running game at Kippax right through to captaining my country in a Wheelchair World Cup Final.

“I’ve seen it do the same for so many other players and volunteers, but with Rugby League usually being played in working-class communities, we struggle with facilities compared with other sports.”

* From: Richard Gould, Chief Executive, ECB Mark Bullingham, Chief Executive, The FA Scott Lloyd, Chief Executive, LTA Tony Sutton, Chief Executive, RFL Bill Sweeney, Chief Executive, RFU.

What’s the sporting vision?

This General Election is taking place against the backdrop of an extraordinary summer of sport.

As chief executives for five of the country’s largest governing bodies we know just how much sport is woven into the DNA of our country. Millions play, volunteer, work and watch across a huge range of activities - from the world’s leading sporting events to grassroots clubs and organisations at the heart of communities across the nation.

Indeed we expect more people will engage with sport this month than actually vote in the election - which sends an important message to those standing for office.

That is why we are calling on all of the political parties to step up and set out their vision for sport.

The contribution sport makes is often relegated to the political sidelines. In fact it has a huge public policy contribution to make.

Our sector makes a significant contribution to the economy while also delivering benefits such as improved physical and mental health and educational attainment, and engaging young people in positive activities. In 2017 Sport England found that the contribution of community sport was worth £85.5bn to the economy and for every £1 spent on sport and physical activity it generated almost £4 in return.

Amongst many issues, we have two priorities we are keen to see addressed in the Party manifestos.

Firstly, ensuring that school sport is fit for the future.

An obesity timebomb is ticking in young people and the Chief Medical Officer has reiterated that every child should undertake the equivalent of an hour a day of physical activity.

The societal benefits of ensuring children develop a healthy relationship with sport and physical activity are huge, but while we expect children to leave school with numerical, verbal and written literacy, our current approach leaves physical literacy to chance.

Good progress has recently been made towards offering all boys and girls the opportunity to play the sport of their choice, but we now need to see this commitment backed up by the offer of good quality PE sessions.

We hope that the manifestos due to be published next week will include a commitment to put physical literacy at the heart of the school day by having a minimum of two hours of quality Sport and Physical Education mandated within the National Curriculum and every child guaranteed the opportunity to be active for an hour a day inside and outside of the school setting.

Secondly, investment in sports facilities across the country.

Clubs, pitches, courts and local facilities are the lifeblood of all communities. They are a vital part of our nation’s wellbeing and national infrastructure. Everyone should have access to good quality sports facilities. Yet many are now in a poor state. Across our sports we have all identified a common need for additional investment to improve grassroots facilities.

We want to see our political leaders commit to building on the progress that has been made recently through Government investment in good quality facilities through models such as the Football Foundation, legacy investment connected to international events such as the recent Rugby League World Cup, the Women’s World Cups for Rugby (2025) and Cricket (2026) and the Parks Tennis programme.

We are keen to encourage a sporting debate. We will make sure all commitments and information provided by any of the political parties is shared across our members.

Rugby League's National Facilities Strategy was published on May 28, aiming to unlock investment of £100m to facilitate the sport’s unique ability to transform lives and strengthen communities in some of the most challenged parts of the country.