World Rugby unveils legacy priorities to raise the profile of women's rugby
When it comes to women’s sport – visibility is a key factor in driving awareness and ramping up viewer ratings and audiences. And this is also the case for women’s rugby.
In an ongoing bid to amplify the profile of the women’s game, World Rugby has unveiled what is being penned as ‘legacy’ priorities as it focuses on the next decade of the sport.
With England as host of the World Cup in 2025, followed by Australia and the United States in 2029 and 2033 respectively, ‘legacy’ is central to its messaging during this 10-year period.
Increasing the profile of women’s rugby
Talking to ESPN, Director of Women’s Rugby Sally Horrox has three main priorities for the coming years, which are increasing the sport’s profile, increasing investment, and advancing the sport’s professional and commercial development.
Sally said: “When we're trying to grow a sport -- and women's rugby is in a really early stage globally of its development -- visibility is what drives demand," Sally Horrox told ESPN.
"So in that sense, this runway, this plan, this 10-year certainty that we get is critical and it is where women's sport has gone wrong in the past. They haven't got that luxury of planning and resources and investment and then commercial partnerships that come on the back of it. That's the great thing to have this run-in and the countries we've chosen are really strong in terms of their potential."
Narrowing the competitive gap to make the sport attractive
According to Sally, women’s rugby is in a really early stage of development, and is marred by the lack of investment received in comparison to the men’s sport.
Sally continued: “I think what we're driving at here is competitive balance in the growth of the game. And again, going back to the point about the game being at quite a young stage with its investment globally and its development, there are significant differences worldwide in terms of the quality, the standards, the ability for the women to play full-time, part-time, amateur.
"We have to narrow that competitive gap to make the sport as attractive as it can be but that will take time. It's not going to happen overnight; that will happen throughout the [next] decade. Today is brilliant in terms of announcing this spectacular remarkable moments in time but the day job is a thriving day in, day out sport for girls and women worldwide, so you're going to need stronger domestic competitions, you're going to need better pathways, you're going to have to have signposted routes into schools and clubs."
Big names draw in crowds
Creating visibility for the sport is not only about legacy for Horrox and World Rugby. Indeed, they are looking to attract star power similar to recognizable names in women’s soccer such as Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.
And with visibility and competitiveness being a key driver for this, the new international competition WXV is being used as a way to lure the big names and also as a way to keep women’s rugby in the spotlight as an entertainment avenue.
Of course, good things take time. As Sally concludes: “It's [making the sport more competitive] absolutely a priority. If we're going to have spectacular World Cups, we need them to be the very best they can be. We're going to need them to be competitive. But again, just bear with us. It takes time to invest and develop that level of competition to raise standards on and off the pitch."