The RFU have announced that the appeal process has been completed and neither Lichfield Ladies RFC or Thurrock RFC have been successful. The process determined that the original decision was reached in a fair manner (and that was the brief).
The appeal process did not consider whether or not the original decision, was correct indeed how could it be correct?
I am far from an expert on rugby or organising rugby leagues, but in doing away with one system and creating another ‘improved’ one you would think that at least the top teams would be included and specifically those with a proven pathway and who have consistently supplied the England team (and the other home nations) with high quality players.
After the original announcement I saw an interview with Nigel Melville, RFU Director of Professional Rugby, in which he brushed aside questions about the exclusion of Lichfield with a ‘people are bound to be disappointed’. I wondered if he had any idea at all of the contribution made by this club (or women’s rugby at all) and his attitude made me very angry indeed.
It is typical, it seems to me, of events around women’s sport and the fact that when the sporting authorities sweep in and make changes such as this, those concerned are just supposed to be grateful for the attention and interest. Let’s forget about lives and careers being affected by this.
Melville went on to confirm that of course to be considered for England players would have to play for one of the Super Rugby teams, meaning that all of Lichfield’s internationals have to find other teams. I can’t help wonder what the RFU would do if Lichfield’s players refused to move club, would they really not pick: Emily Scarratt, Harriet Millar-Mills, (both of whom have been nominated for England player of the year), Amy Cokayne, Natasha Hunt and Justine Lucas? I find it very hard to believe.
No relegation or promotion for two years leaves Lichfield playing in the Championship with their second team.
I do not understand why the Super Rugby League cannot comprise twelve teams and include Thurrock and Lichfield, that would be a fair result to this matter and would save a lot of heartache for all the players caught up in the middle of this drama. After all the Super Rugby League is supposed to be a good thing, an improvement and not the cause of a whole lot of anguish!
Apologies but I can’t help but link to an article from the England Rugby website about Lichfield – you would think from reading it that Lichfield had everything required!
I have just discovered that the players and coaches found out via social media about this travesty – very poor discourteous and symbolic of the lack of respect shown to women’s sport.
Finally, here is the release from the RFU about the appeal:
An Independent Panel has concluded its review of appeals made by Thurrock RFC and Lichfield RFC against the RFU’s decision not to award the clubs a place in the new women’s domestic competition.
The three-person independent panel of Philip Evans QC (chair), Dr Julian Morris and Michael Short concluded both appeals were unsuccessful.
The RFU appointed the original interview panel to make that decision and that panel brought a range of relevant expertise to the decision-making process.
The sole purpose of the appeals was to decide whether an appellant has satisfied the independent panel that the process set out in the Request for Proposals (RFP) had not been followed in their case.
The independent panel noted the it was not the purpose of the appeals to assess whether the ultimate decision taken by the RFU was the correct one.
In regards to Thurrock RFC, the independent panel found nothing to suggest that the club were treated unfairly or differently to any other applicant. The very nature of the process is competitive and meant the applicants were to persuade the RFU that they met or would meet the minimum standards and that they were one of the most suitable teams to form the new league. Thurrock did not persuade the interview panel and the independent panel found no reason to say that Thurrock was treated in a manner that could be described as outside of the process.
In regards to Lichfield RFC’s appeal, the independent panel concluded that the RFU’s decision was one that was reasonably open for them to take based on the facts, and did not fall outside the process as described by the RFP. They were not persuaded in any way that the process had not been followed or that there has been any unfairness to the club.