New Zealand break new ground by paying women’s team
Thirty XV players will receive contracts in and around the equivalent of €26,700
New Zealand will become the first women’s team to receive fully-paid contracts. Photo: Inpho
Twenty-three years after men’s rugby union was made professional, New Zealand’s national women’s team – the Black Ferns – will be offered paid contracts for the first time, valued at up to NZ$45,000 (€26,700) inclusive of allowances and other payments.
England had previously funded a professional women’s XV ahead of last year’s Rugby World Cup, however that funding has now been diverted to rugby sevens.
In Ireland the XV game is completely amateur with no plans to move to a paid model, while only a small number of sevens players receive any payment at all.
The new memorandum of understanding between New Zealand Rugby and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association sees a minimum of 30 players employed on contracts. They will also have access to medical and life insurance, as well as maternity leave entitlements to encourage women to return to the game.
The 30 contracted players will commit 10-14 hours per week to training, as well as 50 days a year of training camps and playing fixtures. Given the contracts will remain semi-professional and unable to support a living wage, players will also be encouraged to continue with work and study alongside their sporting commitments.
In addition to the 30 contracted players, a Black Ferns performance programme will allow another 20 players to train in regional performance hubs, as well as access interim contracts when called into the squad.
The historic announcement follows a significant uptake of women playing rugby union globally, with World Rugby reporting a 60 per cent increase in female rugby players since 2013, and an 150 per cent increase in registered female rugby players since 2013. This amounts to a quarter of all players across the globe being women.
Across the Tasman, it follows the introduction last weekend of Australia’s women’s XVs league – named Super W – which still offers no payment for its players.
NZRPA CEO Rob Nichol said the MOU would ensure a “sustainable” future for women’s XVs rugby in New Zealand.
“This is a significant milestone for the women’s XV game,” he said. “It is a long-term sustainable model that offers genuine pathways and support for female players on and off the field, and that we can build on in the future.
“It signals a very real career path for women’s XV rugby players, one that will allow them to thrive in rugby but most importantly one that will provide an equal focus on helping talented people to achieve engagement and success beyond the game, within their families, communities and chosen careers.”
Black Ferns player Kendra Cocksedge welcomed the changes. “My team-mates [and I]are now rewarded for playing the game we love, and while it is not a full-time salary, it is a great start,” she said
NZR CEO Steve Tew also acknowledged that the success of the women’s game hinged on structural support.
“The Black Ferns – and the Black Ferns Sevens – have rapidly grown in profile, statue, and relevance on the international stage. This agreement supports them to be the best they can be when wearing the black jersey.
“If we want to support players to continue to give their all, we need to ensure we’re providing the best environment in order for them to perform at their best.”
The New Zealand Ferns have won five of the past six Women’s Rugby World Cups, while Ferns captain Fiao’o Fa’amausili last week became the first woman to appear on the cover of the Rugby Almanack in another symbolic step forward for the women’s game. – Guardian service