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...

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Is women's rugby now "box office"?

  • 8,000 spectators over three days for the pool games (plus a likely couple of thousand who would have gone if tickets had not sold out on all three days)
  • Up to 1,000 more for the 5th/12th play-off semi-finals at Surrey Sports Park
  • Around 4,000 - 5,000 for the semi-finals at The Stoop
  • 12,000 - 15,000 expected for the final 
  • Live matches on TV in the UK, and around the world.
However else you look at these numbers its a significant step forward from the first World Cup in 1991, when England's opening game attracted a "crowd" of 47! More significantly this points to a turnover of around £200,000 or more in ticket sales alone. Is this the tipping point for women's rugby?

From a purist point of view this should not matter. As a amateur sport the people that matter are the players - they play because they love their sport, and would play even if no-one came to watch. As long as they are happy this is all that matters - certainly at times this seems to have been the attitude held by the organisers of this year's World Cup where match timings and spectator facilities appear to have been a last minute thought (even supposing there was any thought at all).

However, the fact of the matter is that it does matter. The more people go to watch then the more press and broadcasters are likely to take an interest, as their know that coverage will attract readers or viewers. Which brings in not only potentially more players, but also money from sponsors and advertisers, which attracts more media interest... and so on.

And these numbers are impressive. They compare well with quite a lot of semi-professional sport - athletics or tennis tournaments in this country (outside of Wimbledon). Most National League rugby clubs would be happy with crowds of a couple of thousand. So have we cracked it?

Well, on one level obviously not. This is a major occasion - there are not world cups every week, or every year. Furthermore it was played during the summer, so the spectators - many (most?) of whom were players - could get to the games. A major drawback with the Women's Six Nations, for example, is that it takes place in the rugby season when most potential supporters are busy playing rugby!

However, the potential is undoubtedly there. Bring together the major rugby nations - New Zealand, England, Australia, Canada, France, USA, Ireland - in one place so you can see several matches in a day, get the timing, ticket prices and marketing right, and this tournament has shown that you will get a crowd. Top level women's rugby can pay for itself. And that means that the Black Ferns and Wallaroos need not disappear into hiding for the next four years, and that we need not have to wait until 2014 before seeing Canada take on France, or before we can hear to the USA supporters in full voice again (err... okay, pick any two out of three...).

However, the key thing is that whatever the RFU/RFUW do please don't make it be nothing. The success of this has to be built on - and built on now. Let's hear some plans. The next European Championship is in 2012, for example, why not host that here (for some reason we have never hosted any FIRA tournaments in England)? Give us a programme of tours we can build interest and anticipation for (and include in the to Sky TV contract). And why not a Women's Lions tour to New Zealand - now THAT would be something!

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