Source: England Rugby

Better coverage will lead to increased fan base

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Why is it that although the ITV cameras were at Twickenham to televise the England men playing Ireland in the 6 Nations on Saturday, the women’s match, played directly afterwards, could not be televised too.  Is it enough that the women’s team have the ‘honour’ of playing at Twickenham once a year?

Three times this week people have said to me, somewhat incredulously – ‘there’s a women’s 6 Nations – I didn’t know!’

Well, if you are one of the many people whose only connection to rugby is to watch the 6 Nations each year or the World Cup every four years, and you only watched the TV coverage you probably wouldn’t.  And how depressing is that?

The TV programmes begin about an hour before each match is due to take place and the great and the good minutely dissect previous performances, team selections etc etc and there is no time to feature any of the women’s matches?!

Admittedly last year, John Inverdale introduced a brief highlight of women’s matches that took about 90 seconds and seemed even worse than not mentioning the competition at all, so maybe I’m just difficult to please.

England’s women are WORLD CHAMPIONS and despite having to build a new team, after losing 19 players to 7s and professional contracts, they are currently at the top of the table after three rounds of the competition, with Wales and France to play.  France sit in second place and Ireland, last year’s winners, are in fourth place.

So, how to we improve on this dire situation and get out of the spiral of no money, no coverage, no interest?

Recently I’ve seen from press releases that the RFU have got sponsorship for the U20s (men) and the Scottish RFU have also got sponsorship for their men’s team – so why don’t these organisations wrap the equivalent women’s teams into their sponsorship deals?

Football, hockey, cricket have all got excellent sponsorship deals in place for the women’s teams as indeed have netball, and it is essential that sponsorship is obtained for women’s rugby too, including the Women’s Premiership and Championship leagues.

I still find it incredulous that after winning the World Cup organisations weren’t falling over themselves to sponsor the England team – they are the epitome of everything that is good in sport and wonderful role models.

I look at parallels with the England women’s football team who achieved 3rd place in the FIFA World Cup last summer.

Before going to the World Cup the FA arranged a friendly at Wembley – the take up on tickets the so great the FA had to cap the numbers at 55,000 because of travel difficulties.

The women’s football team have also had very public support from within the football community: David Beckham, Roy Hodgson, Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand to name but a few – it all makes a difference.

The football World Cup got television coverage and quite good media coverage also, the BBC ‘catch-up’ on line was excellent.

The FA have also agreed to show the women’s FA Cup at Wembley after a successful trial last year and tonight BBC1 will show live coverage of England women playing the USA in the SheBelieves Cup (admittedly at midnight but nevertheless its on TV).

All very positive from the FA.

Back to rugby and the brilliant women’s 7s London tournament was cancelled this year as it was considered not viable by the RFU.  After staging it at the Stoop, in competition with the men’s 7s at Twickenham, and giving no publicity to the event at all in 2015.

4tlos attended the final day of the London 7s. It was my first visit to the Stoop and we had trouble finding the ground, no posters, no directions and people I spoke to on the way had no idea there was a women’s tournament taking place at all.

It really wouldn’t take a lot of effort to stage a proper showcase event that would do justice to the rugby talent on show from across the world.

France will be staging a 7s event this year, and we must also look to France to see how they have developed enthusiasm and support for the women’s game.

The World Cup hosted by France in 2014 achieved really good crowds and I noticed last year, watching England play France in the 6 Nations, that the French men’s team were in the crowd supporting and that was great to see.

At the France home game against Ireland there was a crowd of 11,000 and the match was televised.  If the French can do this then why can’t we?

It’s about time we really got behind our women’s teams and give them the support they deserve.