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Friday, June 06, 2008

Would this happen in men's rugby?

Imagine a national rugby team - moreover a UK national team. Imagine that it has just performed very creditably in an international tournament, only losing to probably the top rated team in the world - and then only narrowly. Imagine that it has already entered in the qualifying round for the World Cup - and is one of the favourites, not only to qualify, but probably to finish high in the rankings at the World Cup as well.

Can you imagine such a team being then withdrawn from these tournaments at less than a fortnight's notice because the Union suddenly wanted to (allegedly) "concentrate on increasing participation"? In men's rugby - dammit in male youth rugby - it would be inconceivable. All that training, all that planning, all that cost presumably already expended, all that positive exposure, all thrown away. Wouldn't happen.

So why should it happen (and be accepeted) in women's rugby?

In this case its not England or the RFUW I am talking about, but Scotland and the SWRU. However the attitudes and structures behind this are - I would suggest - the same in many, probably most, rugby playing nations.

To give a bit more background, Scotland were seeded in the top six for the FIRA European Sevens (and world cup qualifier) next weekend - and did extremely well at last weekend's Home Nations, only losing narrowly to England (who must be ranked no. 1 at the moment after recent wins over New Zealand). Then on Monday they suddenly withdrew.

The explanation was only issued today and it is - frankly - pathetic. Before you read it (and you can find it here) bear in mind that countries who will be taking part in this tournament including leading lights of international rugby like Brazil and Andorra and Israel - all of whom can apparently afford something that a supposedly "leading" rugby nation cannot.

Far be it for me to say that this is blatant discrimination - but I cannot see how else you describe it. Will the Scottish men's team also be withdrawing from their World Cup as well (note that both the men's and women's world sevens cups will be played at the same place and the same time)? I wouldn't hold your breath...

How is this relevant to girls' and women's rugby in England? Well, as in Scotland, our game also is run by a small Union separate from the men's union, running the game on a shoestring. We get by mainly because England is simply a larger country than Scotland so there are some economies of scale - the RFUW can more afford to do this kind of thing because it can better absorb the costs. But the disparity of funding that the Scottish decision highlights between the men's and women's game is no different in England.

But all is not quite lost. With a bit of luck players and supporters of women's rugby in Scotland will see this as a great opportunity to highlight this unfairness - maybe embarrass the rugby hierarchy in the country a little. I can only wish them the best of luck.

1 comment:

  1. WOW, that is all I can say. Thank you for posting this, expect to see it re-posted on my blog at some point...



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