Prince Harry the ideal patron for rugby league, says Kevin Sinfield
Harry is spending two days in Leeds and briefly joined in a game involving primary school children at Headingley.
Prince Harry has demonstrated he is a perfect fit for rugby league, according to former England captain Kevin Sinfield.
Sinfield, in his role as rugby director for the Rugby Football League, escorted Harry on his first official engagement since being appointed as patron of the governing body during a two-day visit to Leeds.
The Prince was at Headingley for a Sky Try Rugby League Festival, which is part of a seven-year programme designed to get more than 700,000 children from primary and secondary schools across the country playing rugby league.
The festival saw eight and nine-year-olds from seven local primary schools in Leeds take part in seven-a-side touch rugby league games, and Harry briefly joined in the action before meeting former Great Britain international Paul Sculthorpe and being presented with an England shirt by current captain Sean O’Loughlin.
Sinfield says his two-hour visit dispelled any fears that the appointment of Harry, a famous England rugby union fan, would be nothing more than tokenism.
“For someone who has grown up going to a lot of rugby union games, you understand why people in our heartlands would look at him and think ‘perhaps you are not the right fit’ but he’s absolutely the right fit,” Sinfield said.
“I grew up in a working-class town and I still live there now. The majority of people involved in rugby league, whether we like it or not, are from working-class environments.
“What he’s done today has shown to everybody that he means business. He was great walking round, he was dead chatty and enthusiastic about being here.
“If this is the start of things to come, it will be a very good partnership. It would have been easy to turn up at these events and ghost through and put on an act but he was 100 per cent behind it. He wanted to be here.
“I was probably a bit surprised how relaxed he was but he’s been a great ambassador today. I think he enjoys being at these community-type events. I don’t think he’s bothered about the limelight so to be here today was great and to see him, especially around the kids, was fantastic.”
Sculthorpe, an England assistant coach, said: “He was dead relaxed, asking about my career and what I’m doing now and he spoke highly about the Sky Try. He will be a great patron for our game.”
The Prince also met RFL chairman Brian Barwick and chief executive Nigel Wood, who believes the new patron intends to perform an active role in the game.
“Prince Harry has already demonstrated a sincere and active interest in the sport,” Wood said. “I think he will be a terrific patron for us.”