As part of the campaign, Saints wore a special kit at Magic Weekend, when they played Huddersfield Giants on the 22nd May in Newcastle. The motion congratulates the club and charity on their innovative partnership and the campaign, which it hopes “will help people to talk more openly about autism and improve understanding of the condition.”
St Helens RLFC Chief Executive Mike Rush welcomed the motion. He said: “We’re delighted that our shirt and the awareness of autism will be recognised in Parliament in this way. We are grateful for the work of Debbie Abrahams, Conor McGinn and Marie Rimmer in helping us raise the issue of autism and thus widening the message to different audiences.
“With support from the three MPs, plus those who have highlighted the shirt on social media, and our great fans, the awareness of this cause can only get bigger.”
The motion was tabled by St Helens South and Whiston MP, Marie Rimmer, a member of both the Rugby League and Autism Parliamentary Groups and sponsored by St Helens North MP Conor McGinn and myself.
Marie Rimmer MP said: “I’m very proud to see Saints launching these limited edition shirts in support of such a fantastic cause. Autism needs to be better understood by all of us. There are so many autistic people who have great skills, abilities and potential but face barriers to fulfilling it because of a lack of knowledge and understanding from others.”
St Helens North MP, Conor McGinn added: “This campaign will raise awareness of the condition in St Helens and across the rugby league world, whilst raising funds for a local charity and I’m pleased to be supporting it. Saints are the heart and soul of our community and this latest initiative in support of a local charity is further tribute to everyone associated with the club. In choosing to raise awareness of autism in this innovative way.”
Recently, I joined both St Helens MPs at Langtree Park to support the launch of the shirt. As well as raising thousands of pounds for a local charity it is predicted that the shirt will have a global audience of over 11 million through the magic weekend and other media coverage.
What Saints’ campaign demonstrates is how sports clubs can help raise the profile of important issues because they are so well integrated into their local communities. If all clubs worked in this way just think how quickly and effectively we could disseminate messages about all sorts of key issues that affect society, especially around disability issues.