Recently I read an article, which argued that raising interest rates is the only way for women’s sport to become professional. The article was written two years ago and I must confess that although there has been an increase of coverage and interest in women’s rugby, many of the issues that were raised have yet to be resolved two years later.
There are two key obstacles preventing womens rugby from going forward – a lack of publicity and sponsorship.
Former Wales’ player Non Evans believes female sport is trapped in a chicken-and-egg situation: the broadcasters and the media won’t give the games better coverage until the crowds increase. But the crowds are kept low because of the sport’s poor media coverage.
Crowds – or the lack of them – is a factor standing in the way of the development of women’s rugby. Though growing, they are still a long way off making the sports commercially viable, although there has been definite signs of improvement with England hosting the rugby World Cup and the Twickenham arrangement where spectators can stay on to watch womens test matches following some mens international games. That coverage is improving, but there is still a long way to go.
Evans said, “The only thing I can see going semi-professional in the next 10 years is international women’s rugby. It’s going to take a long time for women’s club rugby. Even if you look at the men’s games, the top clubs in Wales don’t get huge crowds so it’s going to be difficult for the women’s game to get them.”
Welsh rugby team coach Jason Lewis said that, beyond the issue of pay, there is already professionalism in the women’s game. Despite holding down full-time jobs the players are as fast, fit and committed as full-time athletes.
“There’s a massive amount of professionalism in the game in terms of the way they approach it. But in terms of funding and finance there isn’t any in rugby at the moment. There are some isolated cases in England of players being paid to play, but we’re talking little more than travel expenses. We’re not talking large sums of money and the concept of paid players in Wales just doesn’t exist.”
I think this still remains the case for women ruby players everywhere although we are now starting to see new sponsorship opportunities for Rugby 7s players in preparation for the upcoming Olympics. At least this is a step in a positive direction and let’s hope that 15s rugby is not far behind.