RFU chief Ian Ritchie has written a letter to shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, defending the organisation’s controversial decision to not renew the contracts of the England Women’s 15-a-side team.
Dr Allin-Khan wrote to Ritchie last Tuesday, urging him to reconsider the move as it suggested the RFU was “far less than fully committed” to the women’s game.
“For an organisation with a total annual revenue in the hundreds of millions, to make this decision is deeply disappointing,” she added.
“Surely the RFU should be focused on investing in both aspects of the women’s game and should be prepared to back this up with secure contracts for both teams – 7s and 15s. After all, this is the commitment the RFU has made to the men’s game.”
— Dan Roan (@danroan) July 29, 2017
But on Friday, Ritchie wrote back to Dr Allin-Khan to say the RFU was “extremely proud” of its record in women’s rugby and that it takes “player welfare extremely seriously”.
In the letter, Ritchie said: “There are 17 players on full-time contracts this season and there will be 17 players on full-time contracts next season.
“Because there is significant crossover between 7s and 15s players in international women’s rugby, many of the players on 15s contracts will transition to 7s contracts.
“It would harm the performance of both the 7s and 15s teams if we were to treat them as separate elite squads and therefore we work on a cycle to match the international rugby calendar and select the strongest available squad for each major tournament.”
He also wrote the RFU, the rugby world’s richest governing body, would be supporting any 15s player who does not get a 7s contract so their move from international to club rugby “is as smooth as possible” and claimed all concerned had been “heavily consulted”.