IRFU review highlights key issues around women’s interpro changing facilities

Lack of personnel and resources added to ambiguity over who had responsibility

Action from the women’s interprovincial between Connacht and Ulster at Energia Park in Donnybrook back in September. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

Action from the women’s interprovincial between Connacht and Ulster at Energia Park in Donnybrook back in September. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

 

An IRFU review into the lamentable changing facilities for the Women’s interprovincial championship double-header at Energia Park on September 11th has found that “ambiguity as to the responsibility” for the organisation of the games, and a lack of personnel and resources were the causes of the debacle.

Both the Union and Leinster were obliged to apologise for “the upset this unacceptable error caused” after videos circulated on social media which showed that the Connacht team had to change beside bins in a derelict area.

According to today’s statement by the Union: “The review, undertaken by IRFU legal counsel, Sean Brassil, included interviews with the four team captains and written reports and interviews from/with personnel from each of the four provinces and the IRFU.

“The report found that while difficulties posed by the Covid-19 pandemic were significant, they were not determining factors in causing teams to be set up in the wrong area of the stadium resulting in inadequate and unacceptable facilities/conditions for the teams on the day.

“Several key issues were identified as contributing to the systems failure including:

– Ambiguity as to responsibility for the organisation of the final weekend of fixtures for the series.

– Knock-on confusion as to some of the operational and logistical elements of the event planning on the day.

–A lack of personnel and resources on the ground to properly manage the weekend fixtures.

– As a result, the following specific recommendations have been made and will be implemented:

1) A new set of guidelines in relation to the running of the Women’s Interprovincial Championship should be prepared to ensure a minimum standard of facilities. To prevent ambiguity, this must identify the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder, improve information sharing and reporting lines and establish a complaint escalation procedure.

2) Additional training and support should be provided to event and facilities management staff and volunteers.

3)To empower player-voice, a dedicated female Liaison Officer should be appointed by the Provincial branches to support and assist players to deal confidentially with any issues they may have in relation to facilities with appropriate authority to address any issues that arise.

Ultimately, these recommendations will lead to the appointment by the IRFU of a single point of responsibility for the delivery of appropriate structures for the women’s interprovincial championships in the future.

Commenting on the report chief executive Philip Browne said: “Everyone was appalled by the conditions the players had to endure. From the moment we became aware of the issues we apologised on behalf of all involved and resolved to ensure this would not happen again, I want to strongly echo that commitment once again today.

“A significant amount of work went into the delivery of what was a highly entertaining interpro series. However, a series of errors has overshadowed the games, we all take responsibility for such failings and vow to do better by implementing the recommendations of this review.”

The IRFU will also be conducting further reviews into the women’s game, the first into the recent failure of the Ireland team to qualify for next year’s World Cup in New Zealand, which in turn will feed into a 2018-2023 Women In Rugby Action Plan Review.

The former will be conducted by Amanda Bennett, former Welsh rugby international, and who will be joined by Kevin Bowring and Helen Philips. This review is scheduled to take eight or nine weeks, and will feed into the latter, to be completed in early 2022.

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