After reading the November issue of ‘Rugby World’ I was enthused to write an article promoting the role of women in men’s rugby. Gracing the pages of 100-105 was an interview with the inspiring Debbie Jevans, telling all about how the plans for the RWC are coming along. Despite Jevans admitting there had “not been the merest whiff of sexism since she started”, it is true that there is a stigma attached to women working, and spectating, in men’s rugby – that women don’t understand the game and therefore don’t know what they are talking about. But women can in fact add that extra sparkle that is desperately needed in the male dominated world of rugby union.
Women enjoy watching men play rugby and not just for the obvious reasons. Despite watching fit, good looking men run around for 80 minutes, women enjoy the thrill and excitement of the fast paced contact sport. Women find rugby more interesting, than say football, as the complex rules make sure that there is always something going on on the pitch. Some women even become inspired to adopt a healthier lifestyle by watching men’s rugby, seeing rugby players’ sheer physical health motivates some to become healthier.
With this established, rugby clubs and the sport as a whole need to take note of women watching rugby and become more inclusive by targeting women spectators. Rugby needs to think more about how to attract female audiences and make grounds more female friendly, by directing their ticket campaigns at them for example, as there is a huge missed income by not targeting females.
Apart from women enjoying watching men’s rugby they also enjoy working in the field. Debbie Jevans, Chief Executive of England 2015, is an excellent role model for any woman out there trying to work for the sport. For the RWC, the world’s third biggest sporting event, to be headed up by a woman is very exciting and something that should be made more of. Like Jevans said, “I’m sitting here as the first female to do this job. Actions often speak louder than words”.
The solution to attract more women into the men’s rugby workplace is to promote current women who do the job now, which will in turn entice women to the roles. Some may say rugby union has turned into a cut throat business whose Directors of Rugby only want their business to do well. This may be true, so why not have more women on board working who know what they are on about and are good at their jobs? They will help the business just as much as men working will, and may even broaden the target audience of the club. There are very smart women out there who would be perfect for jobs in men’s rugby but don’t get given the chance. The outdated stigma of women being involved in men’s rugby, either through watching or working, needs to vanish.
I regularly go and watch Sale Sharks’ home games and apart from looking around the stands and staff areas and predominately seeing males, the main way you notice the lack of females is the short queue for the toilets at half time. I’m not saying that I want to stand in a queue for ages for the toilet but if that’s the knock on effect of getting more women involved in men’s rugby, I’ll wait in the queue for the whole twenty minutes!