The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has been accused of rampant sexism and an archaic governance structure towards the women's rugby team, according to an investigation by Telegraph Sport. The report, by journalist Fiona Tomas, revealed that the IRFU has been likened to an "old boys club" with a deep-seated problem in its attitude towards women's rugby.
John Cronin, the current director of rugby at Dublin-based Railway Union RFC, one of Ireland's most successful and progressive rugby clubs, claimed that the IRFU has a deep-rooted problem when it comes to women's rugby due to its "archaic" governance and structure. According to Cronin, "an old-boys culture tends to pervade the organization that can be quite hostile to women's rugby."
During a recent presidents' dinner attended by around 200 people at Bective RFC in Dublin, the IRFU president, John Robinson, gave a speech in which he referenced the progress the union had made with the women's team after the roll-out of full-time contracts last year. However, when Robinson mentioned the women's game, a prominent figure in the Irish game made a derogatory comment, stating: "Who gives a f--- about women's rugby?" Robinson was not within earshot of the comment.
An absolutely damning article, again, for the IRFU and I can tell you one thing, this isn't even close to the worst of it....
The man at the dinner, I'm reliably informed was a former top man of Leinster Rugby.
And he's not alone.... https://t.co/MiTqUrz3A3
— IrishWomensRugbySupportersClub (@IrishWomens) April 13, 2023
The IRFU has denied the accusations, with a statement claiming that such claims are "objectively untrue" and that it is investing "millions" in the development of the women's game at both professional and community levels.
Telegraph Sport's investigation found evidence of significant levels of sexism, with players being left out of team emails or not even informed that they were dropped from the squad for matches. Furthermore, protein supplements were refused to players in the build-up to a tour to Japan last November, while the women's team shorts were changed from white to navy blue due to "period concerns," with players not being properly consulted. The IRFU also refused to consider "hybrid contracts," which the players specifically requested, instead opting for a "full-time or nothing attitude."
Criticism of the IRFU's governance and culture is not new, with similar allegations being made in the past. However, this latest investigation has highlighted once again the extent to which the women's team is being marginalized by the IRFU. It remains to be seen whether the IRFU will take meaningful steps to address the issues raised in the report and ensure that women's rugby is given the respect and support it deserves.
Read the full investigation here.
The IRFU have had great success with the men’s game but the women’s game is different & should be handled differently. That stupid comment apart (unfort still common in game) the crux of this is the lack of voice women’s players & community has. It doesn’t have to be like this. https://t.co/rk9p51OapV
— Ali Donnelly (@AliDonnelly) April 13, 2023