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New year, new WRU? The finer details suggest otherwise...

By Stella Mills
Wales v Ireland - Guinness Women's Six Nations - Cardiff Arms Park, Photo: Getty Images

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New year, new WRU? I think not. Christmas seemingly came early for the Welsh women’s squad, who are now set to be granted ‘professional’ contracts from January 1 next year.

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A total of ten full time contracts and fifteen retainer contracts will be offered to the women’s squad. My timeline was flooded with people coming out to congratulate the WRU on its investment in the women’s game, yet I saw very little criticism – perhaps because the finer details where only revealed in a press conference later in the day.

When you look deeper into this so called ‘investment’ it really is laughable. Each full-time contract is set to be worth around £19,000 per year, with retainer players earning significantly less on £7,500.

You would earn more working as a Retail Sales Associate in Aldi than you would being a professional female rugby player for Wales, which is ridiculous. These women have mortgages to pay, children to feed – and the WRU expect them to drop it all for a measly £19,000 a year? Then, to add insult to injury, you expect these women to be grateful to the WRU for investing in them? No.

It is not enough to accept this decision and celebrate it, we must question the motives behind the choice, and demand more, we aren’t even scratching the surface here.

I am sick and tired of this grateful narrative that is repeatedly shoved down our throats, women are given scraps and then expected to be ecstatic about it. No. We need to be teaching the next generation, the girls and boys that will come after us, that we deserve more, we are worth more and we need more.

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To those who will inevitably come back at me saying the contracts are good news and a positive first step shown by the WRU, I would say I don’t think there is any shame in asking for more. In fact, I think the shame lies in accepting something that is significantly lower that what you deserve.

You’re effectively telling these women and the rest of the world that they aren’t worth it, which let’s face it doesn’t stem too far from the WRU’s behaviour in the past few years.

It is possible that the news is only being so well received because the WRU set such a low bar for themselves with its treatment of the women’s team, that this miniscule offering is seen as something far bigger than it actually is.

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Let me be clear here, fault does not lie with the players themselves. I actually think it’s a smart move from the WRU to frame the decision as a joint one between the players and the union. They are unable to criticise the decision because they supposedly chose it themselves. Their hands are tied, and they must adhere to showing the world they are grateful for the investment, when actually behind closed doors they have very different thoughts.

In the video below, Wales captain Siwan Lillicrap gives credit to the 123 players who banded together to write an open letter to the WRU demanding more. She also speaks of the consultations which have been happening behind closed doors over the past few months. Although this is admirable, as Ali Donnelly hints at below, it must be exhausting being a female in sports. Players have to fight tooth and nail to receive the bare minimum and are then expected to brand it up as a fantastic opportunity.

When a decision like this is made, its always essential to analyse the motivations behind it. A few weeks ago, we saw arguably one of the best women’s rugby players come out and indirectly criticise the WRU for its lack of investment. After Jaz Joyce inadvertently called out the WRU, we started to see some rumblings of change. This added to the pressure mounting from the open letter signed by 123 former players, and we saw the WRU appoint two interim coaches to guide the squad to the World Cup. With yesterday’s news in mind, the question of authenticity must be raised here. Did the decision stem from a genuine want to invest and build in the women’s game, or was the WRU attempting to rebuild its shambolic reputation in the rugby world?

We need to be inspiring younger children to ask for more, we need to move out of this cautious gratitude to unashamed ambition. We need to be teaching young girls to ask for more, and to do that we have to lead by example and take no less than what we deserve.

This offering is an insult. If you are going to do something, then do it properly. Women’s rugby has fallen into a gratuity trap, and we need to break out of it. I am sick of saying thank you for receiving the bare minimum in this sport. If you think the issues in this article are restricted to women’s rugby alone, you are wrong. They run deep into the fabric of society, and its about time some one started asking for more, after all if you don’t ask you don’t get.

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