Super League: 'Ground-breaking' learning disability rugby league launched
Super League has launched a pioneering learning disability rugby league category, becoming the first professional sports brand to give its name to such a competition.
Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos are among nine Super League clubs to enter a side into the 12-team competition.
Liverpool's Anfield will host the first games during May's Magic Weekend.
Super League chief executive Robert Elstone said it is a "ground-breaking opportunity" for the game.
Super League and the Rugby Football League - the game's governing body in Britain - have partnered with social care charity Community Integrated Care to establish the competition.
They will also work together on enhancing programmes for people with learning disabilities, mental health concerns, autism and dementia.
People with learning disabilities have been found, on average, to die 15-20 years younger than the general UK population due to poor housing, low incomes, social isolation and bullying.
Mark Adams, chief executive of Community Integrated Care, said giving people with learning disabilities, autism and other similar conditions the chance to "become Super League players" makes a "powerful statement about the inclusiveness and values of rugby league".
'Most significant programme in the world'
|The 12 founder clubs|
|Wigan Warriors||Leeds Rhinos|
|St Helens||Castleford Tigers|
|Hull KR||Huddersfield Giants|
|Salford Red Devils||Warrington Wolves|
|Wakefield Trinity||Widnes Vikings (from Championship)|
|York City Knights (from Championship)||Newcastle Thunder (from League 1)|
"We believe that this collaboration will become one of the most significant inclusive sports programmes in the world," Adams said.
"This initiative gives people with learning disabilities an unparalleled platform to stay active, make friends, develop skills and achieve their dreams."
Matches will be played at a series of "high-profile" festivals and events over the course of the regular Super League season.
Games will be non-competitive with the focus on inclusion, participation and skills development.
Last year a number of fixtures were played as curtain-raisers for Super League games and featured alongside Challenge Cup matches.
Physical disability rugby league had its first World Club Challenge in 2018, with Warrington Wolves beating South Sydney Rabbitohs in Australia, and in 2021 it will feature as part of the World Cup in England.