The public health situation seems to be improving slightly, with the number of cases having dropped significantly over the past week.

Hopefully we are over the worst and we have been given the green light to resume our training activities. We are just waiting for the arrival of our testing kits and then we can confirm that we will be back next week. This is earlier than most League One clubs, given that we have taken our place in the Challenge Cup. Hopefully the extra preparation will be to our advantage.

While most of our staff have again been furloughed due to the latest lockdown, we have still managed to partially deliver some of our community programmes and we have also had a productive meeting with Lee Edmondson and Terry Barker, both progressive thinkers from the Barrow and District League.

We see that the growth of Barrow Raiders cannot be done in isolation and that it must coincide with the growth of the game generally in the local area. The meeting we had was still at the ideas stage, but Raiders want to work together with the aim of helping clubs and increasing participation. It is only with strong community clubs that we get a production line of talent playing the professional game.

We have been working on a mini-development plan and we both appreciate there will be real challenges post-Covid. Missing a whole year of development could well result in a missed generation of players should we do nothing. It is also apparent that the junior teams that are most successful usually have some quality, time-committed individuals running them. It cannot be stressed how important volunteers are to the game and there needs to be a whole recruitment drive in that direction. We are determined to put together a plan that increases those numbers.

It may be that we need to offer some alternatives to full contact 13-a-side rugby league. There is no doubt that rugby league can be an intimidating game and often there is no hiding place if you do not have the physical attributes. But why should those individuals lose out on the chance to participate? We think tag and tag festivals are the way to open the door to individuals who perhaps aren’t blessed with ability or desire to play the full-contact game. And what’s wrong with that? Five-a-side football is played by many groups of friends on a casual basis and we believe the same types of opportunities should be available in rugby league. Raiders could organise festivals of tag by way of introduction to the game and it would be great if each community club could boast both a contact and tag team. These tag players and parents could well be the supporters, sponsors and volunteers of tomorrow. Let us not turn our backs on them.

The Barrow and District brought in the six-a-side game at the start of the 2020 campaign and it was a massive success. Instead of not having A teams, we got a group of mainly young players playing at a high intensity with their hands on the ball many times. Ideas like this could help transform the area.

For Raiders we would like to introduce an academy team attracting the best players in Cumbria to complement our college team. We realise, however, taking away a squad of 25 players from the community game would not go down well without these growth plans in parallel. We intend to appoint a community development officer to help produce and drive forward some of these plans and hopefully every club will benefit. We have lost RFL officers in the past, but we can’t just moan; we will try to fund the positions ourselves. There is a real determination that Barrow is put firmly on the rugby league map.