The Offload: A shameful week for rugby

There are lessons to be learned from Irish rugby’s archaic male committees

Billy Vunipola in action for Saracens on Saturday. Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Billy Vunipola in action for Saracens on Saturday. Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

 

The archaic male committee system

Imagine Ailis Mardon-Egan was a man. Her new name could be Phil Orr, Nick Popplewell or Cian Healy. Leinster loosheads the lot of them, each the dominate force for a generation, with one salient difference; Mardon-Egan played in a World Cup semi-final. In fact, only Healy can equal her Grand Slam and victory over New Zealand.

Imagine Orr, the 68-year-old IRFU representative on the World Rugby Council, uttering the following words in 2019: “Maybe, regardless of gender, the whole Leinster Branch governance structure is outdated. Maybe the membership of the executive needs to be looked at.

Maybe AIL status isn’t representative of the game as a whole anymore. Maybe there can be a greater representation of the grassroots game, for junior and women’s rugby, because these executive and management committees seem like very hard places to get on to. For women in the game who played or coached who now want to volunteer they are looking at a very long road. If Leinster really wants inclusivity and greater representation for women I think they are going to have to fast track in the same way World Rugby did.”

Of course, Mardon-Egan said that.

Maybe lasting change is already unfolding and the Leinster Branch have missed the boat. Lynne Cantwell’s first decree as chairperson of Sport Ireland’s “Women in Sport” action plan was to head hunt former teammate Nora Stapleton from the IRFU.

Imagine, after six years where Stapleton gained invaluable experience watching the archaic male committee system mismanage women’s rugby, what she can now achieve.

Maybe, not so far into the future, the provincial branches will be financially motivated to show Cantwell and Stapleton that genuine change is occurring rather than last week’s pathetic attempt by David Carrigy’s “inclusivity committee” to quieten the women.

Shameful week

Speaking of inclusivity, maybe the preaching of Israel Folau shows rugby as a sport is truly lost. Nigel Owens disagrees – 24 hours before Folau condemned Tasmanian teenagers for legally earning the right to change their gender and doubled down on his “homosexuals are bound for hell” hate speech, Owens spoke at the launch of the Union Cup (DCU, June 7-9th).

“The Union Cup allows people in the LGBT community to play rugby in a safe and comfortable environment. Rugby people from the LGBT community still feel they can’t play in their local community clubs for various different reasons. Rugby is an inclusive sport,” insisted Owens, who contemplated suicide, due to his sexuality.

“There is no doubt about that. I wouldn’t be able to referee today if it wasn’t. Not only do we have a responsibility in what we say and what we do, we sometimes have more responsibility not to stand by and say or do nothing. I know what it is like to be within 20, 30 minutes of losing my own life. I was in a very, very dark place and felt I couldn’t live my life anymore because I was gay. The environment around me was giving the impression that I wouldn’t be welcome as a gay person.”

Imagine how the world renowned Welsh referee felt after Billy Vunipola supported Folau? A shameful week for the sport.

By the numbers - 415: The number of tickets an AIL Divison 1A club gets for Ireland games at the Aviva stadium. Railway Union get 105 (five for their women’s team and 100 because their men’s team play in Leinster League Division 2A)

Quote of the week: “Man was made for woman to procreate, that was the goal, no?” – Billy Vunipola assists Folau in their Christian crusade to lead rugby and society back into the dark ages.

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