It was a case of one step forward and two steps back for women’s sport last week.
For the first time ever, Canterbury of New Zealand (Canterbury), the official jersey manufacturer for Irish rugby, ended a long standing sense of disparity by designing the same gear for both the men’s and women’s Irish rugby team.
To go one step further, the Irish women’s rugby jersey was finally made available to the public to purchase. Sounds wonderful right? Finally, some long-overdue progression?
Well it did not take long for Canterbury and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) to shoot themselves in the foot. The stark contrast in the unveiling of the new kit for the upcoming season for both the men and women’s team was clear as day.
The campaign revealing the new Irish men’s jersey saw Bundee Ake, Robbie Henshaw and Conor Murray sport the new jersey. Rugby players.
In comparison, the announcement of the new women’s jersey saw models chosen to market the kit instead of actual Irish international women’s rugby players.
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE 🇮🇪— Florence Williams (@FlorenceW94) August 22, 2020
2 Jersey Launches
3 International Players
3 Profiles lifted
1 HUGE Opportunity Missed
By not using the female players to market THEIR OWN KIT an opportunity to build recognition, fan bases & creating role models for future generations is lost. pic.twitter.com/TM75AH5rKr
A representative of Canterbury stated that “Due to Covid-19 our women’s jersey samples were halted in production, pushing back our women’s shoot.”
“We were too excited not to show you this preview on launch day!”
“Keep an eye out in the coming weeks or the official women’s jersey launch and creative.”
Despite Canterbury’s rebuttal, they were met with a wave of criticism over what appeared to be them covering up their oversight.
The uproar has appeared to have made Canterbury sit up and take notice. Today they have tweeted out a pledge to “ensure we photograph male and female rugby players” for all campaigns going forward.
So today, we make these pledges— Canterbury🏉 (@canterburyNZ) August 27, 2020
1. For all our campaigns and photoshoots we will ensure we photograph male and female rugby players
2. Our inbox is always open to hear from players regardless of gender, race, sexuality or belief–to listen and help towards equality in our sport. pic.twitter.com/vvT14sFC6X
Canterbury used the #IAmEnough hashtag which had been trending on Twitter in light of the jersey controversy to challenge the stereotypes of women playing dominated sport as well as raising the profile of women in sport.
We may have taken the detour to get there but if the outrage and pressure put on both Canterbury and the IRFU makes a tangible change, it will have been worth it.