Kate Middleton is officially the Patron of the Rugby Football League and the Rugby Football Union, Kensington Palace announced on Wednesday. The Duchess of Cambridge is taking over for her brother-in-law, Prince Harry, and it’s the first one of Harry’s former patronages to be redistributed to another member of the royal family since he and his wife, Meghan Markle, stepped back from their roles as working royals.
According to the Kensington Palace press release, the new patronages, which have been given to 40-year-old Kate by Queen Elizabeth, closely align with “her Royal Highness’ longstanding passion for sport and the lifelong benefits it can provide, both within our communities and on an individual level.”
Kate has showed off her athletic abilities in the past. She also played field hockey at St Andrew’s School, as well as tennis. Her husband, 39-year-old Prince William, is patron of the Welsh Rugby Union. In September, the couple visited the City of Derry Rugby Club in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and Kate happily participated in the sport.
In her new role as Patron of the Rugby Football Union, Kate visited Twickenham Stadium, the home of England Rugby, on Wednesday to meet England players, coaches and referees and joined a training session taking place on the pitch.
The Rugby Football League is the national governing body for Rugby League in the U.K. and covers all forms of grassroots and the professional game, including women’s and wheelchair rugby. Meanwhile, the Rugby Football Union is the national governing body for grassroots and elite rugby union in England. It promotes and runs the sport, educates and trains players and officials, and runs the England men’s and women’s elite performance teams.
Ralph Rimmer, Chief Executive of the Rugby Football League, said that the league was honoured that Middleton is now the Royal Patron.
“We are delighted to welcome her as we prepare to host Men’s, Women’s, Wheelchair and Physical Disability Rugby League World Cups in England this autumn,” his statement reads. “Our sport’s history has been built on a commitment to tackling inequalities and we honour that through our focus on having a positive social impact well beyond the pitch. We look forward to working with The Duchess in the years to come, and I know all levels of our sport will welcome her to the Rugby League family.”
Bill Sweeney, Chief Executive of the Rugby Football Union, also shared, “It is a great honour to welcome The Duchess of Cambridge as our Patron. Our aim is to enrich lives, introduce more people to rugby union, develop the sport for future generations and create a successful thriving game across the country. As rugby clubs have re-opened across the country, players, officials, and volunteers are celebrating being back in the game together, and we know the support of The Duchess will be greatly valued from our grass roots clubs and fast-growing women and girls’ game, right up to our elite Men’s and Women’s England teams.”
Prince Harry had been the Royal Patron of the Rugby Football Union and Rugby Football League since 2016, before he stepped down last year. Sweeney said in a statement at the time, “We would like to thank Prince Harry for his time and commitment to the Rugby Football Union, both in his position as Patron and Vice Patron. The RFU has greatly valued his contribution to promoting and supporting the game. We look forward to welcoming the Duke and Duchess of Sussex back to Twickenham at some point in the future.”
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