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...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

RFU underestimates strength of women's and girls' rugby

The annual rummage into the mysteries of the RFU's player registration system has revealed the usual oddities - some of you have mysteriously disappeared from the club's register of players, some of you are there twice, and some of you are listed as boys. In addition some long departed names are still there. So a fun time can be looked forward to putting these right.

The system - RugbyFirst - is important for various reason, not least that it is the source of all the RFU's player data. It is where the RFU compiled the information for the IRB that said that there are some 275,000 teenage and adult players in England, of whom about 10,000 (or about 3.5%) are women or girls. But given the "accuracy" of the Letchworth registration, how much can we rely on this? Is there an independent survey of player numbers in rugby (or come to that other sports?).

In fact there is.  Sport England's Active People Survey asks a cross section of the population which sports - if any - they take part in for at least 30 minutes each week (during the season) - and it makes interesting reading as, while it shows that the RFU estimate for the number of rugby players in England is probably about right, it wildly underestimates how many of them are women. 

The RFU claim that there are 9,974 girls and women aged over 13 playing rugby - but Sport England found 17,300 female players aged over 16 (so the number aged 13 or more could be over 20,000)! That is over 7.5% of all English rugby players (one in thirteen), or more than twice the RFU's estimate. Why this should be is difficult to say, but the only explanation that makes sense is that for some reason the RugbyFirst database is somehow failing to pick up more than half of the country's female players.

What is even more remarkable is that - despite a decade of work by the FA and the ECB successfully making the image of their sports more "girl friendly"- rugby is actually a more "female" sport than, for example, football (only 6.7% of soccer players are women) - and is now only just behind cricket (8.4%). Which again raises the question about why women's rugby fares so badly in the press even compared with other women's sports...

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