28 November 2021
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Have Your Say: RFU we need more!

November 13, 2013
england-women-v-france-rugby

As a journalist in the world of women’s sport, there are certain times when I feel that I’m banging my head against a brick wall. Promoting female sport and working to further its participation is something that I feel passionate about and proud to do. Often however, it’s not easy.

Sometimes it’s the lucrative brands involved that don’t want to cooperate, or mainstream media doesn’t want to give it the time of day, occasionally even the athletes don’t want to play ball, but what really frustrates me is when the National Governing Bodies (NGB’s) won’t do everything they can to promote their women.

Let me tell you where I’m heading with this…

england-women-v-france-rugby

Last Saturday, 9 November, I headed to Twickenham to watch England Women compete against France in the first of their Autumn Internationals. Seeking avenge against the French following their Six Nations defeat, it was set to be a thrilling contention in front of a home crowd and I couldn’t wait.

The game was to follow the England v Argentina men’s match, with the hope of showcasing the women to more rugby fans than usual. Our digi mag cover star this month is Sevens captain Michaela Staniford who tells us just how important it is for the exposure and growth of the women’s game, that their matches are played alongside the men’s (click here to read the full interview). But if you had solely relied on rugby’s National Governing Body, the RFU, would you even know this was happening? Barely.

Let’s start with the fact that the game was FREE to watch. Yes, free admission, offering a golden opportunity to step inside the world’s largest and most impressive rugby ground to watch 80 minutes of world class rugby at zero cost. And did the RFU let us know? Well they did put out one tweet (yes just one) and then retweeted Maggie Alphonsi and Rachel Burford who had also mentioned the word ‘free’.

All other tweets in an attempt to promote the women’s match were on the tail end of the lines “after the men’s game…”. Whilst I realize a huge pull for a crowd is to get these fans to stay after the men’s match, firstly, a few tweets to allow the women’s game to stand on it’s own two feet wouldn’t have gone amiss. Secondly, suggesting to stay after the men’s game implies to me that you need a ticket, especially when the link to buy your tickets is added after the tweet!

I’m sorry but this simply is not good enough. The RFU are hot on Twitter with 184,275 followers. In my opinion, they should have been shouting from the rooftops that it was free admission to entice as many people as possible to head down, support the match and further promote the women’s game.

england-fifteens-rugby

OK so the RFU’s social media hasn’t impressed me, what about the mood on the day itself?

Well it took three stewards at the gate before I found myself talking to a member of staff who actually knew it was free entry and therefore I didn’t need a ticket to get in to the stadium. I was amazed that even the staff had no idea what was going on.

And inside the grounds the acknowledgement for the women’s game wasn’t any more impressive. The moment the whistle blew at the end of the men’s match the crowd were up from their seats and out. It took a good twenty minutes until the big screens showcased that the women’s match was to follow, and by then it’s too late; too many fans had left and too many seats were empty. (I’m hoping that something was mentioned at the beginning of the men’s game, or maybe even at half-time, but I wasn’t there so I can’t comment).

One of the biggest problems that women’s sport faces is not that people don’t want to watch it, but that not enough people know when or where it’s going on. It’s a tough battle, and one that isn’t likely to go away anytime soon, but how does women’s rugby even stand a chance of developing to its full potential when so little is done by their own NGB to promote and encourage fans to watch their games?

Bottom line, it is essential that as many people as possible know about these matches and if we can’t even rely on the NGB’s to do this for us, who can we? Is sending out a few more tweets and displaying a little more promotion on the day really too much to ask for? I definitely think not.

Lizzie Flint, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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