Female rugby coaching platform the Girls Rugby Club has today launched a campaign calling on schools to offer rugby to girls as part of the PE curriculum or as an after-school activity as it looks to tackle stereotypes and gender inequalities within the sport.
Girls Rugby Club founder Rachael Burford, ex-England international and Harlequins captain, has penned an open letter addressed to the Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE, and signed by 31 of the Girls Rugby Club Advisory Board members – including current and former male and female rugby internationals, officials, coaches and parents from around the world.
The list of signatories includes England’s Emily Scarratt, Brian Moore, Shaunagh Brown, Leanne Riley, Mike Friday and Rocky Clark, Ireland’s Sene Naoupu, Australia’s James Liley and New Zealand’s Vania Wolfgramm, Dwayne Sweeney and Susan Dawson.
Published in time for the end of the Summer holidays, the letter outlines the need for schools to foster equality and inclusion within sport as they do with academic subjects, rather than “pigeon-holing” girls into stereotypical female sports.
A survey of female rugby players in the United Kingdom, conducted by the Girls Rugby Club in 2020, found an overwhelming 90% of respondents said that playing rugby improved their self-esteem and confidence, and while 92.8% felt conscious of their weight and physical appearance, just 13% felt self-conscious in a rugby environment.
A further 2021 survey of 400 female rugby players and parents found that 100% of respondents felt it was important to offer girls the same opportunities as boys to play sport at school, however 72% felt girls were pushed into stereotypical female sports during PE classes.
“We have a responsibility to see that equality extends beyond the classroom and to the sports field as well. We no longer pigeon-hole girls into stereotypical subjects and vocations, but encourage them to dream big and pursue careers in STEM too with huge benefits to industry and the economy. Why do we continue to pigeon-hole them into stereotypical sports?” says Burford.
“We are at a point in history where young girls look up to remarkable female athletes as role models, rather than having posters of just sportsmen on their walls. The tide is changing, with growing opportunities for women to make a career in sport, with full-time professional salaries now available to female rugby players and those working within sport. We believe it’s time our schools follow suit and offer equal opportunities for girls to fall in love with rugby as they do for boys.”
Since 2014, World Rugby reports that the total number of registered female rugby players has risen by 145%, compared to 25% for male players. More than a quarter of the 9.6 million people who play rugby in the world are female.
Burford explains that rugby instils valuable life lessons and creates opportunities for young people from all backgrounds.
“Rugby inspires young people to excel, to have courage, to lead, to work hard, to have respect for others and for themselves. Those lessons can be applied to much more than just sport, they’re lessons for life and ones we should be teaching girls in particular. School is where the rugby journey starts and therefore a responsibility lies with schools to foster inclusivity, opportunity and equality – not division and outdated stereotypes.”
The Girls Rugby Club has begun a Change.org petition in the hopes that public momentum will be a catalyst for change in schools throughout the UK and the rest of the world.
To find out more, view the open letter and to sign the petition go to https://girlsrugbyclub.com/rugby-in-schools/