Bath Rugby have today unveiled the club’s commitment to the growth and sustainability of women and girls’ rugby in the region.
Following a considerable period of research, learning and discovery as to both the needs and the opportunities for the women and girls’ game, the club has outlined a road map for its growth, from grassroots to elite, culminating in an application to the Allianz Premier 15s with the formation of a new women’s team in partnership with Bath Rugby Ladies (part of Bath RFC).
A new three-year strategy outlines four transformational objectives to be achieved by 2023/2024:
- PLAY - To double the number of registered players across our region, supported by the appointment of a new Women’s Rugby Development Lead
- SUSTAIN - To develop a sustainable and inclusive pathway to the elite game across our region for players and coaches; achieved through partnering with clubs, schools and universities, and supported by the appointment of a new Pathway Lead
- PERFORM - To form a professional women’s team, partnering with Bath Rugby Ladies, with the ambition of being ready to join the Allianz Premier 15s in the next licence cycle
- PROMOTE - To promote female role models and raise the profile of the women and girls’ game across our region, leveraging the Club’s marketing and communication channels and those of our commercial partners to effect positive change
PLAY | To double the number of registered players across our region by 2024, supported by the appointment of a new Women’s Rugby Development Lead
Women and girls’ rugby has experienced significant growth globally, represented in a 145% increase in registered players since 2014*. Over a quarter of total registered rugby players worldwide are now female, signifying the increasing appetite and provision of the women's game, and underpinning World Rugby’s commitment to deliver equality on and off the field – including strategy, structure and investment – by 2025.
Bath Rugby has sought to provide greater playing opportunities for women and girls through its existing programmes which address key barriers to the female game, including female only camps, TRY Engineering in partnership with Dyson, Dyson 7s and Project Rugby, which has delivered six new girls’ teams since 2017.
Over the last year Bath Rugby has undertaken extensive research to understand the true state of play of the women and girls’ game throughout the region. This work identified that significantly less than 25% of registered players are female (only 1,718 registered female players between U13 and Senior). The club identified barriers to participation including lack of fixtures and a clear pathway, as well as limited coaching availability and provision across schools in the region.
Bath Rugby is committed to effecting change, starting with a pledge to work with schools and clubs across the region to double the number of registered players by 2024.
To encourage growth of participation at grassroots level, Bath Rugby will appoint a Women’s Rugby Development Lead who will manage the women and girl’s strategy and work with clubs across the region to create a long-term vision to inspire significant and sustainable growth in participation and engagement.
The club’s search for the Women’s Rugby Development lead role has started today and the job description and application process can be found here.
*Source: World Rugby
SUSTAIN | To develop a sustainable and inclusive pathway to the elite game across our region for players and coaches; achieved through partnering with clubs, schools and universities, and supported by the appointment of a new Pathway Lead
Bath Rugby will develop a pathway to the elite game across the region for players and coaches, to support participation goals, and to underpin the ambition for a professional women’s team.
A women and girls specific DPP will be established ahead of the 2022/23 season - in collaboration with local clubs, schools and universities - to identify and progress talent from the community game and Bath Rugby programmes, delivering a pathway to the professional game.
To support this goal, Bath Rugby will appoint a new Pathway Lead to deliver the pathway utilising knowledge and experience from its successful existing pathway for the men’s game.
University of Bath will remain a core component of player development at the club, combining with Bath Rugby to provide pathway opportunities for university players into the elite team. The University is a well-established leader in sport, providing world class facilities to athletes – including Team GB – at its Sports Training Village, attracting top talent from across the country.
PERFORM | To form a professional women’s team, partnering with Bath Ladies, with the ambition of being ready to join the Allianz Premier 15s in the next licence cycle
Bath Rugby will partner with Bath Rugby Ladies (part of Bath RFC) to develop a women’s team along with the infrastructure and support which meet the application criteria for the Allianz Premier 15s next licence cycle in 2023/24.
Bath Rugby Ladies is Bath RFC’s flourishing female division, with over 100 registered players across three teams in addition to the first mixed ability female side. They were named Female Team of the Year at the 2019 National Rugby Awards and have helped former and current England players Izzy Noel-Smith, Marlie Packer and former captain Catherine Spencer on their journeys to international honours.
From the 2021/22 season, Bath Rugby will work more closely with Bath RFC - and specifically Bath Rugby Ladies - to develop the performance systems, facilities, infrastructure and commercial foundations required to support the launch of a professional women’s team for the next Allianz Premiership 15s licence cycle in 2023/24.
The new professional Bath Rugby women’s team, launched in partnership with Bath Rugby Ladies, will play its fixtures at the Rec.
PROMOTE | To promote female role models and raise the profile of the women and girls’ game across our region, leveraging the Club’s marketing and communication channels and those of our commercial partners to effect positive change
As part of our comprehensive research to understand the barriers of entry at grassroots level, 83% of coaches from 24 girls’ and women’s teams believe that enhanced promotion by Bath Rugby of female role models and of the female game across the Club’s marketing and communication channels would play an important and significant part of plans to develop the women and girls’ game.
Increased visibility and the creation of female role models will be key to the success of the overall ambition, with increased awareness helping contribute to accelerated growth of participation and retention rates throughout age-grade rugby.
“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it” is a term often used to promote inclusivity and Bath Rugby are committed to increasing the visibility of female rugby not only across digital platforms but throughout the entire club. As the professional rugby club in our catchment area, Bath Rugby have a duty to promote inclusivity and facilitate aspirations throughout our whole community and not just 50%.
Speaking on today’s announcement, Bath Rugby Chief Executive Officer Tarquin McDonald said:
“Women and girls’ don’t have a clear pathway to the professional game, it’s one of the biggest barriers to entry and one of the many stark comparisons against the men’s game.
“What has been very important to us during this process, and will continue to be the case, is a sustainable approach. We want to ensure that the club is providing a pathway for the long-term growth of the women and girls’ game, one that helps drive demand for the sport, answers that demand with playing opportunities and harnesses increased participation into a pathway for a successful professional team.
“All those components need to work in harmony, and we are committed to our goals of doubling participation, building a sustainable pathway, and putting in place the foundations to launch a professional women’s team.
“We recognise that we’re behind other Gallagher Premiership teams and many other sports who are already competing in the elite levels, producing exceptional talent both domestically and internationally. Today’s announcement is about us taking responsibility for the future, and ensuring that we effect positive sustainable change across our region.”
Head of Ladies Rugby at Bath Rugby Ladies, Sarah Burgess said:
“We want people to be inspired and entertained by the women’s game. We want to do the sport justice and provide role models for young girls to look up to, knowing that they can chose a career in the sport. Today marks a big step towards making that a reality.”
Bath Rugby Ladies, Head Coach, John Gould said:
“This is a significant moment for women’s rugby in the region. We have made huge strides on and off the field, recruiting over 100 members thanks to the efforts of Bath RFC, our players and volunteers, and the RFU’s Inner Warrior programme.
“This opportunity with Bath Rugby will now help us accelerate those efforts, ultimately putting us on a path to the Premiership and encouraging more women and girls to take up the sport, developing future talent.”
Tarquin McDonald concluded the announcement by sharing his thanks and appreciation to grassroots rugby clubs:
“This is a hugely significant day not only for our club but for our entire region, and it would not be possible without our grassroots clubs who have supported the women and girls’ game in our region over many years. In particular, I would like to share respect with Bath RFC, our amateur club, with whom this project has allowed us to reconnect. Their commitment to the women and girls’ game has been unwavering and the calibre of Bath Rugby Ladies is testament to that. We are looking forward to working together more closely in the future with the growth and protection of our game sitting right at the heart.”