Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Guinness Premiership club adopts leading women's team

Yet another interesting development from the South West region - Guinness Premiership club Bristol have adopted Clifton, one of the leading women's premiership teams (for details see here). From next season Clifton will be renamed Bristol Ladies and will come under the same sponsorship deal as the Bristol men's team. They will, however, continue to play at Clifton RFC.

While its pretty obvious why Clifton Ladies are taking this step  (ie. money), it is interesting that Bristol's reason for supporting women's rugby is all about developing strong links in the community. They can already boast a strong mini and junior programme - women's rugby was clearly seen as the missing piece. At the moment they don't have a girls team, however - maybe St Marys' Old Boys Girls' (the only girls' team in Bristol) will be having a knock on the door shortly...

Looking wider Bristol are actually just following a strong trend among Guinness Premiership clubs, especially in the south west. As we know, Worcester have taken women's and girls' rugby very seriously for many years, and over the past year or so Gloucester and Bath have started to develop strong girls' programmes (not necessarily with RFUW's approval, from what we hear - not that that seems to bother either of them!).

Outside the South West...
  • London Irish burst on the girls' rugby scene last season (not without controversy - the simultaneous overnight disappearance of "Cranberley" cluster was not an unrelated event). 
  • Harlequins have had a women's and a growing girls' team for some time
  • Saracens have also had a girls' and women's team for many years as we know - although in their case of Sarries the link with the professional club does not seem to go much beyond the name.
  • And just outside the Premiership Bedford Blues are also trying to develop a girls section.
Overall what all this means is that seven out of the 12 Guinness Premiership clubs now have significant women's or girls' sections. Ultimately these are all businesses and they are choosing to move into the female game for hard financial reasons - they see that a strong women's and girls' game can only grow rugby in their areas, which will ultimately benefit their clubs. 

Its all good news for women's and girls' rugby. One of the factors behind the rapid expansion and acceptance of women's soccer over the past ten years or so has been the adoption or formation of women's teams by premiership teams. Once clubs like Arsenal began to field a women's team the game became much more high profile and much more accepted. Players gained access to better coaching and training facilities - and teams also got access to the professional club's promotional muscle. On the downside many traditional centres of the women's game at less fashionable clubs lost out - it wasn't popular with the game's old guard - but there is not doubt that it has been good for that sport. The increasing support of women's and girls' rugby by the professional rugby teams promises to be just as good for this game as well.

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