Sports wheelchairs bring accessible Rugby League to Oxford Brookes

Three people with wheelchairs
With some of the wheelchairs are, from left, Marcus Boswell, Student Sports Manager at Brookes Sport, Ahmed Elsemart, an Oxford Brookes student, and Alice Humphrys, a Brookes Sport receptionist and quantity surveying student.

Oxford Brookes University has taken delivery of 15 new sports wheelchairs thanks to a £15,000 grant from the Rugby League World Cup.

The wheelchairs have been funded by the Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021) capital grants programme, called CreatedBy. The programme aims to build on the legacy of the World Cup by encouraging more people at grassroots level to get active and participate in Rugby League. 

Marcus Boswell, Student Sports Manager at Brookes Sport, said the new wheelchairs would be used for both recreational and competitive Rugby League, as well as other sports. 

He said: “At Oxford Brookes we are committed to building an inclusive environment for everyone who wants to take part in sport, or who simply wants to get more active. We provide sporting opportunities not just for students and staff, but also for the local community.

“The new wheelchairs will bring an accessible form of Rugby League, which is not traditionally played further south in England, to Oxford Brookes and the local community.”

Rugby League is traditionally played in the north of England, with Rugby Union being more popular in the south. Differences between the two games include the number of players on a team, and different scoring systems.

Wheelchair Rugby League’s first significant national exposure was at the Rugby League World Cup 2021, held in autumn 2022 after it was postponed due to the Covid pandemic. The competition was covered by BBC Sport and more than one million people watched England beat France in the final televised live on BBC Two.

Marc Lovering, Rugby Football League Director of Participation and Development, said: “Legacy-building was an important dimension of RLWC2021 and the popularity of Wheelchair Rugby League, thanks largely to England’s dramatic World Cup Final win over France, is part of this legacy. Rugby League is one of the most inclusive sports around and Wheelchair Rugby League is a thrilling variation of the game. We wish Oxford Brookes every success in growing the game.”

As well as rugby, the new wheelchairs can be used for tennis, badminton, basketball and a range of other activities. They will also be used by students studying sports to discover more about how to coach or work with athletes with mobility problems.