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...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Is women's rugby illegal?

Or might it soon become so? A little extreme maybe, but one - presumably unintended - consequence of recent and planned legislation could make the way that women's rugby is currently organised illegal. And ironically it is the result of legislation on equality. 

When the new Equality Bill came out a few weeks ago (see previous article) it contained some clauses that would seem to help the game, but buried deeper in the Bill seemed to be clauses that were more of a problem. Not quite sure whether I was reading them right I contacted the local MP who in turn asked the House of Common Library to do some research. 

The problem stems from when we play - ie. on Sundays. Pretty much all women's and girls' rugby at all levels takes place on Sundays, so it is not that unusual for girls who are interested in playing rugby to find that they are unable to play because they also do other things on Sundays - horse-riding or relative visiting or netball playing or whatever. This was always unfortunate, but in the end a matter of choice and their priorities (well, either theirs of their parents).

However some girls could not play because they go to church - I can think of three or four cases where this applied. Still a matter of choice? That was always the thought - indeed throughout sporting history there have been players who could not play on certain days for religious reasons. They even gained some admiration because of the way they stuck to their consciences - but teams played and races were run and the world went on.

But that is no longer the case (or certainly will not be if the Bill becomes law). Because this will be defined as "offering services at limited times where this conflicts with religious observance" and therefore "indirect religious discrimination". 

Honestly. I thought that was a bit mad which is why I asked, but the House of Commons library confirms it. The only defence will be if it is for reasons of "health and safety or business efficiency". It may even be the case now (due to the 2006 Act) - the advice is unclear on that point - but the new Bill tightens things up so it is no longer a matter of doubt.

From here on the four pages of detailed text are full of "coulds" and "might bes" and quite small print - and in the end whether or not anything actually happens depends on whether any girl (or parent) complains to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and then the views of the Commission (and ultimately a court) but one thing is clear - rugby clubs really need to make sure that their legal insurance is up to date.

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