Association sport

A turning point for the game?

It looks like Christmas has arrived early this year for everyone involved in women’s football. After what seems like months of tough news, and constantly asking for more, we finally have a welcome step forward in the game.

Former England international Danielle Waterman (Nolli) is leading the change, along with three others, to create an independent entity entirely dedicated to the protection and support of Premier 15 players.

The Women’s Rugby Association will provide a collective voice for female players, while supporting them on and off the pitch by advocating for increased medical and social provisions for female Premier 15s players.

Ten months ago, after learning that Bristol Bear player Alisha Butchers needed to self-fund surgery for an injury she sustained during training, Nolli decided she needed to take action. She wasn’t alone, as current co-founders Emma Lax, Polly Barnes, and Holly Hammill all felt the same. This is how the Women’s Rugby Association was born.

Nolli opened the conversation by explaining, “We mistakenly assumed this support was already in place for gamers, but it wasn’t.”

Although the association is independent, which will undoubtedly be a key factor in its success, it has already gained membership from key organizations in the women’s rugby space such as the RFU and club owners, this which will be important for the group to achieve real currency.

Speaking on the details, Nolli explained that the organization would take on an educational role with the players, ensuring that support is available for all who join the association, which can be done for as little as £ 1 per season.

She went on to say, “These are the questions you might think are silly to ask that can eat away at you as a player, if we can help answer them and relieve some stress while providing real support.” , we will have done something right. . “

What’s interesting to me is the level of legal support promised alongside that. If we’ve learned anything from the exponential growth of women’s rugby, it’s that contacts are increasing. After it was revealed months ago that players are crying out for help due to a lack of club-wide support, this news can only be a welcome positive for them.

During the announcement, Poppy Cleall, recently named World Rugby Player of the Year, said: The Premier 15 have been asking for support and help for a long time. We are reaching a turning point for women’s rugby in England with contracts and higher expectations from female players, you cannot ignore the well-being of an athlete and the lack of off-field support based solely on the presence of a cap international, or lack thereof.

The WRA has the backing of various partners, including sports law firm Morgan Sports Law, creative agency Cake, and the Riskhub data management system.

The contracts come with lawyers, and you don’t focus much more on the sport than Morgan Sports Law, a firm specifically dedicated to protecting the rights of athletes. It is a shame that this support was not readily available from the start and unfortunately the players had to face huge problems with negotiations with the clubs before that, but in the same vein it is a fantastic and welcome step forward, which has already been well received.

It is clear that the right steps are being taken to lay the foundations for this association. Many have noticed that the named roster has yet to be named, and that’s for good reason.

Nolli explained, “We didn’t want to just rush through the process of appointing an advisory board for fun. Care must be taken to ensure that the right people are elected to represent the players, it cannot be the job of just the loudest characters or those with the most profile.

Representation is important, but the right form of representation here must be non-negotiable. As Nolli mentioned, it’s important to have the right people on board to discuss and defend some potentially controversial issues. The group must ensure that they are attentive to the selection, and that the players have fully integrated the idea for it to be a success.

The power of collective voices cannot be underestimated, this week we just saw 62 Irish rugby personalities come together to call for significant change in the wake of IRFU behavior in recent months. A few weeks ago we saw over 100 former Welsh internationals band together to put pressure on the WRU, with great success. It is clear that collective voices work and have the potential to understand real change. Power has now shifted from these unions, and rightly into the hands of the players.

The independence of the Women’s Rugby Association means that players will no longer be left to risk their careers and their futures to speak out. Now players have a whole community of like-minded individuals behind them, resulting in huge levels of security and power.

The creation of the association comes just a few months after the formation of a similar group in New Zealand, with Women in Rugby Aotearoa. The body has since been tasked with holding organizations to account by issuing a reactive collective statement in response to developments in women’s rugby. Hopefully with this added security players will feel like they no longer have to have these conversations or thoughts in private and can fight for the best level of treatment they deserve, which will only serve to improve. the game far beyond the Premier 15s.

I would say that we are now, with the formation of this association, at a turning point for women’s rugby. We have all the tools we need to be successful, it’s just a matter of working from now on to ensure that we maintain that success, globally in women’s football.


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