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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Model for RFUW/RFU integration now goes for merger.

Next year the RFU and RFUW will join together as a single organisation to run rugby in England. Well, sort of.

For many years there have been "merger talks" between RFU and RFUW. Exactly what was talked about has never been fully revealed, but most of the explanations/rumours for why the talks never seemed to get anywhere seemed to have £ signs attached which seemed to point to a certain lack of trust between the two bodies (probably justified). However, as reported last year, not terribly veiled threats by Sport England to cut funding unless they got on with it concentrated minds a bit and the result was an agreement to come together.

But the big headline hammered home from all quarters was that this was NOT A MERGER. It will be an "integration" with RFUW remaining in existence as a "constituent body" within the RFU.

What exactly this will mean is anyone's guess - not least because there are very few similar set-ups in other national Unions. In most cases most countries that have gone down this line have gone for full merger, with a single organisation responsible for all parts of the game. The only set-up similar to the proposed RFU/RFUW "integration" seemed to be in Scotland - in fact some senior RFUW officials quoted that as being the model they were following.

So its rather fascinating to read today that the Scottish Women's Rugby Union (SWRU) has now changed direction and decided - unanimously - to wind itself up and merge fully with the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU). Assuming the SRU agree the SWRU will cease to exist on 27th June.

Its not difficult to see why. Though not all mergers have gone well, the most recent ones in Wales and Ireland have been extremely successful. On-field performances in both countries have improved significantly - even dramatically - at all levels, and participation rates have shot up, while in Scotland their national team has been barely able to hold their head above water.

This is not to say that the RFUW/RFU integration plan will not work - women's rugby in England is so much bigger than it is in Scotland, and details about what "integration" will actually mean have not really been properly communicated yet.

But when everyone else now seems to be going one way you do wonder whether such a unique model in England will prove to be best solution.

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