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RFL equality and diversity champion receives MBE

The sterling work done by Rugby Football League (RFL) Equality and Diversity Manager Sarah Williams has been recognised by the awarding of an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Since her appointment in November 2007, Sarah has helped Rugby League become one of the most proactive governing body in UK sport on equality and diversity issues across all strands including disability.

RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood said: “It gives me great pleasure to congratulate Sarah on this richly deserved award; it is terrific that her outstanding efforts have been acknowledged in this way.

“Rugby League has long prided itself as a sport that is open to all and Sarah has helped reinforce and enhance our reputation for tolerance, inclusivity and proactivity.”

Sarah Williams MBE said: “This honour is a fantastic recognition, not just of the work I do but more of Rugby League and the way in which the sport has led the way in its approach to equality and diversity.

“I have only been a catalyst because we could not have made the strides we have without the support of the governing body, players, coaches, supporters, administrators, clubs and every section of the sport.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the way in which Rugby League has embraced the whole equality agenda and I look forward to doing what I can to keep the sport in the vanguard of this exciting journey.”

Sarah has worked tirelessly in a number of ground-breaking areas, including publishing research on the perception of Rugby League among young Asian Muslims; helping devise a coaching courses for BME players, women and disabled players; setting up the RFL Rainbow Forum, an online group open to all LGBT Staff, players, coaches, match officials club staff and volunteers; and produced information packs and guidance for clubs that enable them to effectively tackle homophobia.

In September 2012 with Sarah’s commitment the RFL joined up with LPF which saw Rugby League become the first sport to conduct full access auditing at all stadiums with a view to improving the quality of facilities and spectator experience available to disabled and also non-disabled spectators.

The LPF auditing will take place across all stadiums associated within the professional game in both the Stobart Super League and Co-operative Championships. Aligned to this, a new disability guidance document is currently being developed and produced by the RFL and Level Playing Field to assist clubs in becoming more disability friendly and will be an additional resource to support the current education and training provided.

LPF Chair Joyce Cook, OBE said “Everyone at Level Playing Field is thrilled to hear this great news. Sarah is always a complete pleasure to work with. Her passion for equality and her support for our works has already helped us to make significant progress to the benefit of both the RFL clubs and their disabled fans. Sarah – many, many congratulations on a very well deserved award.”