Architecture firm Holmes Miller has submitted a planning application on behalf of the Rugby Football League (RFL) to Manchester City Council for its proposed new education and training facility in the Beswick area of the city.
In 2019, the Rugby Football League (RFL) received an independent report setting out that due to the Rugby League having a reach, visibility and value beyond its core followers, it has an opportunity to make a major contribution to health outcomes, crime reduction, improved education and employment outcomes, volunteering opportunities and improved life satisfaction.
The OurLeague Life (OLL) concept was born out of this strategic ambition to capitalise on Rugby League as not just a great sport but also a vehicle for social mobility.
OurLeague Life will be a hub and spoke model: celebrating, expanding and rolling out existing good practices in Rugby League communities across the north of England, adding value and providing coordination.
Land off Grey Mare Lane is the proposed site for the unique facility to be shared between Rugby League’s elite athletes, community players, coaches and match officials, and young people and adults from the local area.
The submitted plans detail a two-storey building and adjacent grass pitch, plus a small pitch-facing stand attached to the main building, which would serve as an education and training base for people to begin developing their ‘big match’ skills.
Teaching and seminar spaces will also provide additional space for locals, sports professionals and community groups to participate in the range of training and support which will be on offer as part of the RFL’s outreach effort.
On the first floor, a conference room and servery with a capacity of 200 people has been designed. This space will serve as a high-quality teaching and event space for the RFL to use during its outreach programme.
Meanwhile, on the ground floor, the hub’s kitchen is designed to provide catering facilities to the maximum occupancy of 200 people. This kitchen will be served with both mechanical supply and extract ventilation. Both units will be demand-controlled and will create a negative pressure to ensure odours are effectively carried from the building.
Pitch and external lighting
OurLeague Life’s Manchester hub will be illuminated for sports using LED floodlights mounted on aluminium columns circa 20m in height. The lighting will be designed in accordance with the sector’s Sports Lighting standards to provide Class One level lighting for international and national competition with illumination levels of 500 lux on the pitch. The lighting scheme will also account for guidelines on the Limitation of the Effects of Obtrusive Light from Outdoor Lighting Installations with an effort being made to protect well-inhabited rural and urban settlements from light pollution.
Benefit to the community
RFL Project Lead, Tony Sutton, explains: “For 125 years, Rugby League has brought a huge range of social and economic benefits to communities in the north of England and beyond. It is a sport with a massive social impact – and now we want to make an impact in east Manchester.
“OurLeague Life is an exciting concept, which we hope will become a local focal point for adult education, training and skills, and a catalyst for driving up social mobility through sport. As well as offering a new facility for people in east Manchester, this will be a key educational facility for all the England Rugby League squads such as our men’s, wheelchair and women’s teams.
“Our plans were warmly received by the vast majority of residents who attended our recent consultation event at Beswick Library, and feedback has been positive from other stakeholders in the city such as those people involved in education and skills provision.”
OurLeague Life is the name given to the RFL’s proposed series of learning and development ‘hubs’ across the north of England and, in time, possibly nationwide. OurLeague Life hubs will offer: education courses; returning-to-work and employability courses; professional development education (for example, CPD for Match Officials, coaches and volunteers in sport; and a wide range of Rugby League and sport-related education and development programmes).
The planned OurLeague Life facility, alongside these hubs, will serve as a strong support to Manchester City Council on implementing its Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy. Akin to the strategy’s focus, the facility will create well-designed accessible outdoor space at the heart of the local community and will highlight that elite sport alongside local people can enjoy social benefits from exercising and accessing outdoors.
The RFL is working in partnership with architectural practice Holmes Miller on the Beswick project, which will be the first and main OurLeague Life facility.
Ryan Holmes, Director at Holmes Miller, adds: “The plans submitted detail a sports facility achieving something distinctly different than the status quo. By having elite athletes walking the halls and using the shared facilities alongside the aspiring local young people, the new centre will provide a lot more than simply being a place to train.
“Community and supporting development is core to the design focus of this building. Building on Manchester City Council’s Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy, we want visitors to interact with each other and the space in a way that promotes cohesion and a collective focus on the positive benefits of outdoors space and sports as championed by the Rugby Football League.”
The OurLeague Life facility will be open on weekdays for education and training and at the weekends for community sport. Events will be planned to ensure that there will be no clash with events at the Etihad Stadium or the Co-op Arena, or with any large events held across the Etihad Campus more widely.