The Irish Times view on the issues with women’s rugby: big questions for the IRFU

It is now for the IRFU to reflect on whether 62 players can all be wrong

The letter sent this week to Minister for Sport Catherine Martin and Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers by a group of 62 current and former international women rugby players has left the IRFU with a wounded reputation. It faces a big task in mending relations with its female members.

The letter accused the IRFU of "inequitable and untrustworthy leadership" and explained how players had lost "all trust and confidence" in it. The timing was bad for the IRFU; it coincided with Sport Ireland publishing the latest snapshot of female representation on the boards of funded sports organisations.

This showed that women made up 32 per cent of board members across the relevant organisations, an increase from 24 per cent in 2019. The IRFU has a committee with 25 members, only three of whom are women.

Irish rugby's governing body also exacerbated the problem in responding to the letter with an ill-judged statement that immediately brought more criticism upon it. Chambers said he was "disappointed" by the statement. Sinn Féin's Johnny Mythen characterised it as "absolutely dismissive in tone."


The IRFU response gave credence to the players’ claims of a male-dominated union not in touch with the needs of their elite female players.

It remains to be seen what changes the IRFU will introduce. Whatever they are will have to be made public, so it is welcome that the union performed a u-turn on Friday when it accepted it should publish the two independent reports currently being conducted into women’s rugby. Transparency in reviewing the national team was one of the keystones of the players’ grievances.

All of this is part of a depressing pattern. Members of the Irish women’s football team had to publicly protest to have equality issues addressed, while the Oireachtas hearing this week was also told changing facilities for women around the country in many sports are poor to non-existent.

But it is now for the IRFU to reflect on whether 62 players can all be wrong – and to say what it will do to get its house in order.