David Brent: “Dutch girls must be punished for having big boobs.” Now you do not punish someone, Dutch or otherwise for having big boobs.
Gareth: If anything they should be rewarded.
David: They should be equal.
Gareth: Women are equal.
David: I’ve always said that.
I remember ‘The Office’ when it broke onto the scenes in 2001. It made me laugh out loud; all the people I had ever worked with were rolled into the characters in the programme. You may be asking what this has to do with rugby. Well the current RFU contracts debacle could easily be written into an episode of that programme and David Brent could easily be found within the structures of the RFU’s decision making.
Like Brent the RFU loves believe its own PR and push its positive stories about how it supports the women’s game and funds it like no other union and all this is true. But like the above exchange from ‘The Office” it doesn’t really know how to do it without out continually putting its foot in it, or by throwing money and resources in the wrong areas. The super league idea is a handgranade that is going to go off at some point, either when teams fail to field second teams, or potentially first teams, when clubs fail to meet the minimum standards or when the clubs with money start to pay wages. If it survives one season in its original format I will be pleasantly surprised. How upfront the RFU will be with the support they have to offer certain teams will be interesting to see.
I can tell you first hand the RFU is filled with people who see women’s rugby as a hindrance and pain. My experiences battling with county bodies to take the women’s county programme seriously is a prime example of that. Following one meeting I was told I could not criticize the county on my own social media platform (which I laughed at) and threatened with “never working within this county ever again if I continue to criticize them” By work they meant ‘volunteer’ to be honest I wouldn’t volunteer to help that county now, not for as long as it has certain people within its structure anyway. It soured my whole feeling towards something I was very proud to have been part of for many years. Bear in mind I was trying to make the point that the women shouldn’t be playing in a second hand colt’s kit, 5 years on from the county programme starting. This attitude is endemic; Will Carlings claim of “57 old farts” doesn’t come close to the size of the problem.
Now the RFU, like Brent, doesn’t mean to be offensive, they just don’t know how to be honest. Whoever came up with the original press release trumpeting the creation of the contracts was either ill-informed, or told not to push the fact these contracts were only short term. The fact so many people missed the small print among the hysterical ‘RFU MAKES WOMEN’S RUGBY PROFESSIONAL” press release, shows that this wasn’t that clear.
It is the staggering stupidity of the timing that makes it all so awkward. The PR is bad now but imagine how bad it looks should England lift the world cup and retain it with a squad of players many of whom will be unemployed 4 days later. Yep the RFU are that tight they wouldn’t even give them an extra full week on the end of the contract.
The RFU is trying really hard, it just simply isn’t thinking. The biggest potential growth area of the game is the women’s game. The potential is huge the cost of continuing these contracts is a drop in the ocean to what it brings people in terms of aspiration to be the best and to become part of that elite club. Look at the young girls at the cricket and the football look at what they success does for a governing body.
You will see people comment and say “they should do it for love not for money” the women would do all of that, they are the most committed bunch of women you would ever meet but should they do it at the cost of their careers and their futures and for an employer who records record profits year in year out?
The RFU has followed up its statement yesterday with this comment “How can I hate women, my mum’s one.”