With history making in the air in recent days given Portmarnock Golf Club’s vote to allow female members join their ranks, another step towards egalitarianism in sport came at Leinster Rugby’s AGM on Thursday night.
Decided upon was a move which will continue to change the face of the female game in this country and supplement the butterfly effect that is equality between genders in rugby.
Following suit of Ulster who changed their bye-laws in 2019, identical status to their male equivalents will be bestowed to all clubs involved in in the Women’s All Ireland Rugby League in Leinster, thanks to Dublin’s Railway Union RFC, who have been pushing for a measure such as this for the last seven years.
Now to be known as senior players in their respective teams, the women are set to reap the benefits that come with that stature, the greatest of which is a seat at the decision making table.
The prestige level grants female athletes and their clubs a say in committees, as well as more opportunities for greater revenue sources and sponsorship due to increased exposure and availability of tickets for international fixtures for sale.
Rejected by the same council just two years ago, the subsequent Inclusivity Committee that was established continued to campaign for change in tandem with clubs such as the afore mentioned Railway Union RFC.
Shirley Corcoran, Chairperson of that trailblazing club talked of the gravity of the situation, remarking how it was “an historic event for Irish rugby.”
“This recognition allows equality in representation and in access to resources for women’s rugby. It will help improve the structures and support for high-level female athletes to allow them to achieve their potential and to better compete internationally” she said.
“It allows senior women’s players, players who represent Ireland at an international level, a voice on how their game is governed and run.”
“We look forward to the day when all the representative bodies in Irish rugby follow Leinster and give equal rights to representation to women’s rugby.”
She expects that the other constitutional organisations (namely Munster and Connacht “are likely to or at least absolutely should be following suit”, and with pressure by fans and players alike persisting on these institutions for transition to develop the women’s side of the game here in Ireland.
A fight that shouldn't have needed to happen!— Aoife McDermott (@AoifeMc15) May 28, 2021
Thank you @RFCRailwayUnion for always pushing the boundaries and demanding more for women's rugby in this country!
A massive step in the right direction and I'm so thankful to all who have fought hard for this! #WeAreSeniorPlayers https://t.co/G72Xiy2Ccs
Corcoran also urged clubs similar to her own to carry on with their push for reform, with the next step on her list being changes at the IRFU grade.
The motion just passed is even more astronomical in calibre when put in this context, as to date the IRFU’s sub-committee for women’s rugby doesn’t have a single representative from any of the 10 AIL clubs.
“We have a seat in Leinster now but we still have to try and get a seat in the IRFU,” says Corcoran. “We’re still nowhere near it and it’s so frustrating.”
“Women’s rugby is here to stay and the expectations of female athletes are also moving on. No longer are women happy to be excluded, gone are the times where it’s acceptable to just do enough” she said.
“The women’s game is growing and there is a huge opportunity that needs to be embraced by the powers that be.”