“We fear that Ireland is still lagging behind”

“Dear ministers,

“We are writing to you as a deeply discouraged group of Irish rugby players, current and former, having sadly lost all faith in the IRFU and its leadership after historic failures.

“The purpose of this letter is to ask for your support now to enable meaningful change for all levels of women’s football in Ireland, from grassroots football to green jerseys.

“We are writing in the wake of a series of recent disappointments for the international team, on and off the pitch, but in the end recent events simply reflect several cycles of sub-standard engagement with the union, one leadership inequitable and untrustworthy, a lack of transparency in the governance and functioning of women’s football both nationally and internationally, and a complete lack of overall ambition as to what it could achieve.

“In 2014 the Irish team XV finished the season fourth in the world, having won a Six Nations Grand Slam the previous year. This sparked the start of a new World Cup cycle and new leadership within Irish rugby with David Nucifora and Anthony Eddy overseeing the women’s program. The end of that cycle ended in bitter disappointment as the team finished eighth at their home World Cup in 2017, crashing into the group stages.

“In response, the IRFU has developed an action plan for the game with a number of high level goals. However, we find ourselves at the end of 2021 with those plans in disarray and with a vast majority of those goals missed, including the failure of Team XV to qualify for the World Cup and the failure of the seven-a-side team to qualify for the Olympics.

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, these facts represent a significant failure. It’s not just a recent problem. At the end of each Irish Women’s Football World Cup cycle, there has been a review. None of these reviews have ever been made public, as the IRFU has selected a handful of findings to present to the public.

“Many of us felt that the range of stakeholders invited to participate in these reviews did not always represent the game reliably enough to capture accurate and independent data and information. factual and designed to act in the best interests of women’s football.

“There are now two ongoing reviews – one on the failure to qualify for the World Cup and a second on the implementation of the current ‘Action Plan for Women in Rugby’ which was to last. until 2023 and which covers all aspects of the game across Ireland.

“Despite the fact that there are well-qualified independent leads leading them, we don’t think they will end up doing anything materially different from any that have come before and therefore the overriding purpose of this letter is to ask your help to intervene in these processes to make them truly transparent and meaningful.

“A large group of current players, including some who have recently retired, have collectively submitted a more detailed outline for the World Cup qualifying review, which we are happy to share privately with you.

“It gives more context to some of the current disillusionments, but there is a larger and historical element to it all and that is why we ask for your support with the following.

– We ask you to meet with IRFU to confirm the appropriate guarantees of meaningful change so that women’s football can move forward positively.

– We ask you to request supervision of current exams; help ensure the transparency of conclusions and ensure that they retain their independence.

– We ask for your support in obtaining assurance that the conclusions and recommendations of these reviews will be fully made available to players and that the relevant details and full recommendations are published publicly and subsequently that the leadership has the necessary authority and appropriate governance. is put together with a serious action plan and new goals to help move the game forward.

“Unresolved, the many challenges that women’s football faces at all levels have the potential to have a significant spillover effect not only at the top level, but also grassroots football. More and more young girls are entering rugby across Ireland, but the failure of the IRFU to create meaningful courses has a significant impact on the quality of the system and structures experienced by these players in the community. .

“All of this is happening at a time when women’s rugby around the world is on a massive upward trajectory. Player numbers, TV audiences, crowds and investment are all on the rise, but we are concerned that Ireland is increasingly being left out and the opportunities for growth are disappearing at a time when we certainly should be promoting so much. sports opportunities for women and girls across the country as possible.

“We appreciate that your roles oversee all sports across the country and these are specific issues, but we have tried to work constructively with the IRFU for decades and many of the same issues persist.

“Many of us have been part of previous attempts via private intervention to work constructively with the IRFU to help them understand how the players have felt for many years and support them to make changes that would create the good environment for women’s rugby at all levels to thrive These have failed so we think we need to turn to your help and publish this letter.

“We want to make it clear that a small number of current players who work for the IRFU or have gaming contracts with them have not been asked to sign this letter, for obvious reasons.

“We have always believed that with the right structures, the right processes and the support that Ireland could become a leading women’s rugby nation, providing opportunities for everyone at all levels, and even with all levels. recent challenges, we are sure that with your support we can come out better and stronger.

“We thank you for your continued support. “

Those who signed the letter are:

Ciara Griffin, Lynne Cantwell, Fiona Coghlan, Grace Davitt, Laura Guest, Paula Fitzpatrick, Mairead Kelly, Jackie Shiels, Claire Molloy, Lauren Day, Alison Miller, Marie Louise Reilly, Stacey Lea Kennedy, Gillian Bourke, Heather O’Brien, Deirdre O’Brien, Shannon Houston, Ruth O’Reilly, Nikki Caughey, Jenny Murphy, Ailis Egan, Orla Fitzsimons, Sharon Lynch, Siobhan Fleming, Sarah Mimnagh, Mairead Coyne, Fiona Reidy, Nicole Fowley, Ilse Van Staden, Cliodhna Moloney, Lindsay Peat, Ciara Cooney, Leah Lyons, Chloe Pearse, Nichola Fryday, Sene Naoupu, Ailsa Hughes, Anna Caplice, Louise Galvin, Laura Feely, Edel McMahon, Michelle Claffey, Aoife McDermott, Laura Sheehan, Lauren Delany, Emma Hooban, Ellen Murphy, Anne-Marie O’Hora, Kathryn Dane, Judy Bobbett, Neve Jones, Katie O’Dwyer, Aoife Doyle, Hannah O’Connor, Eimear Considine, Victoria Dabonovich O’Mahony, Shannon Touhy, Kathryn Buggy, Sam Monaghan, Hannah Tyrrell, Linda Djougang, Jeanette Feighery.


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