GB’s sevens team is being left behind in a funding row, says ex-England captain Sue Day in the June edition of Rugby World
SEVENS’ admission into the Olympics is one of the most exciting developments in rugby in decades. In the women’s game it is probably the most transformational development ever.
Here, at last, is the opportunity to put women’s rugby on the international map; at the top of the TV schedules; in the conversations of the world’s sports fans.
Unsurprisingly, the top nations have invested heavily in their women’s sevens sides, recognising the possibility of an Olympic medal and the importance of growing the game. They now have full- or part-time training programmes for their athletes.
The Netherlands and Canada took the lead, followed by the USA, Russia, Spain, Ireland and now New Zealand and Australia.
The obvious absence from that list is Great Britain. Whilst the other nations are well on the way with their Rio 2016 preparations, here the game is being stalled by arguments between the people who hold the purse strings about who should fund the team.
UK Sport think it should be the RFU (whose England players will provide the bulk of any GB women’s team and who fund a men’s sevens programme), and the RFU think it should be UK Sport.
I have no idea who is right and no idea about the specifics of the arguments, but what I do know is that whilst those organisations fight amongst themselves the more impossible the task facing the GB women’s team becomes.
Since NZ and Australia fully established their programmes last year, every IRB Women’s Sevens World Series event has been won by one of those two nations. In 2012, England won in London and Hong Kong. That is how quickly the world changes.
In the context of the millions spent on GB Olympic sports and by GB rugby unions, a pretty small investment would turn GB women into Olympic contenders.
But in the context of women’s rugby in this country the impact would be phenomenal: not just giving us another successful team to cheer in Rio but, more importantly, attracting the next generation of players and fans.
Those opportunities will be lost without proper funding.