Over the weekend, The Rugby Paper reported that many of the England Women’s Rugby side, The Red Roses, would not have their full-time or part-time contracts renewed.
The contracts which these players are currently on are under the 15s programme umbrella and the original report suggested that only 17 of the current 50-woman strong squad would have their contracts renewed and that this would be under the sevens programme, with the union justifying the move by switching their focus back to sevens due to the upcoming World Cup and Tokyo Olympics.The report also quoted an unnamed ‘insider’ who said that the revelations have been “affecting morale”.
Pundit Arena has received correspondence from the RFU and the RFU Director of Professional Rugby, Nigel Melville, who have released the following statement relating to the issue.
“The RFU has made a multi million pound investment in women’s rugby in the last three years and that investment increases year on year. Our record investment applies not just to the elite game but also to the community game,” Melville said.
Melville states that the offering of contracts works in cycles depending on the tournaments which are to be concentrated on and those which are to take precedence. For example, after the Rugby World Cup next month (15s), contracts will be offered for the sevens programme due to the Sevens World Cup and Commonwealth Games, both to be held in 2018.
“The RFU announced the first professional women’s contracts following the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2014 – these were Sevens contracts to prepare for participation in the Olympic Games in Rio. The women’s game works in cycles between the 15s and sevens programmes and as a result, next year there will be 17 professional, full-time fixed-term sevens contracts to prepare England to compete in the two big global tournaments on the horizon – the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens and the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Contracts will then revert to 15s contracts again to prepare for the next big global tournament – the Women’s Rugby World Cup (15s).
The statement outlines the increased monetary contribution to the women’s game in addition to clarifying that the players were always aware their contracts would end in September and that in April, they were informed the next contracts would focus on the sevens programme.
“This season the RFU’s investment in the elite women’s game will continue to increase, including an annual £800,000 investment into a new women’s domestic competition to improve the 15s player talent pool. The Women’s squad were always aware that contracts would end in September, after the World Cup. The current 15s squad was informed in April that the next contracts will be focused on sevens, reflecting the cyclical nature of the women’s game. The squad fully understands the position and are focused on the World Cup in Ireland next month.”