WARRINGTON'S plans for a rugby league centre of excellence are moving forward thanks to a £1.2 million project as the town bids to inspire the next generation of players.

As one of the host towns for the Rugby League World Cup (RLWC2021) in England, Warrington has benefitted from a major injection of funding from the RLWC2021 ‘CreatedBy’ legacy fund – receiving £600,000 towards a new 3G pitch facility at Victoria Park.

The council worked in partnership with Wolves Foundation to secure the funding, with the remainder of the project being funded with a capital investment from the council.

The project aims to increase participation in rugby league and offers a major boost to players of all ages and abilities.

The redeveloped site will be a key venue for the England Talent Programme and will help the council and Wolves Foundation to support community rugby league clubs and schools.

It will give players the opportunity to use the high-quality facilities both for training and competitive match play, regardless of age, ability or gender.

This includes the intention to make the new facility the home of women’s and girls’ rugby league in the borough.

Building on the successful use of Victoria Park in recent years for hosting the ‘RFL schools 9s’ competitions, it is hoped this competition will continue to be staged at the new venue, along with local high school competitions.

Coach and parent education courses will also run from the site with the aim of ensuring several new coaches per year are developed for each year group.

It will also be used as an additional training base for RLWC2021 visiting teams as well as being the venue for the majority of matches in the international Physical Disability Rugby League international showcase competition, which Warrington will also be hosting alongside the main world cup event.

Cllr Tony Higgins, the council’s cabinet member for Leisure and community, said: “We are committed to investing in grassroots sport and the Warrington playing pitch strategy provides the framework to ensure that our playing pitches meet the needs of local people, now and in the future.

“This project supports this work, along with our ambitions, under the Central 6 masterplan, to provide excellent playing pitches and facilities within the central wards of our borough.

“Hosting next year’s RLWC gives us a fantastic opportunity to bring real benefits to our communities by improving facilities and inspiring the next generation of rugby league players.

“The start of work on this fantastic project is great news for our borough. We are a famous rugby league town and this new pitch is an important part of our ambitions to create a centre of excellence in Warrington.”

Wolves Foundation director Neil Kelly says rugby league provides values that can support the transformation of communities and residents.

He said: “The award for RLWC2021 funding and support from the council to make this happen, is on the back of hard work and commitment from The Foundation and its community clubs.

“This facility will become a home not just for participation but inspiration.”

Jon Dutton, chief executive of RLWC2021, added: “The CreatedBy RLWC2021 Capital Grants Programme is focused on ensuring the next generation of rugby league players have the best possible facilities and barriers to participate are removed. We are delighted to award this grant and look forward to seeing the results of this investment that aims to deliver real change in the local community.”

For more information about Warrington’s part in the RLWC2021 tournament, visit warrington.gov.uk/rlwc2021