Former Black Ferns star Melodie Robinson has blasted the playing conditions that her former side are enduring at a major international tournament in the United States.
The Black Ferns are currently competing in the women’s Super Series competition in San Diego, alongside Canada, England, France and the United States, but are playing test matches on a training field, with the players reduced to using a tent as a changing room and using a portable toilet, while there is no seating for fans.
Robinson, who played 18 tests for New Zealand between 1996-2002 and is now a sports broadcaster, left a scathing review of the competition’s facilities as an international rugby tournament for women.
“The Black Ferns will say ‘at least we’re playing international rugby’. But personally, in this day and age, that’s not equity, that’s not equality, it’s not really good enough,” she said on TVNZ.
“In 1996, we went to the Churchill Cup in Canada. We played in fields with no seats, nobody watched. We did stay in a nice hotel though.
“Back in 1996, we had better conditions than the 2019 Black Ferns have.
“[The] Black Ferns can’t really say anything, because they’re over there. It’s the United States that’s probably put the facilities up. They don’t have as much money.”
The criticism comes just one month after World Rugby launched a worldwide campaign to advance and develop the women’s game.
“From the highest levels of the sport’s governance to grassroots’ participation, we are wholly committed to driving gender-balance and ensuring that women have equal opportunities both on and off the field,” World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said.
The conditions of the Super Series, however, seem to contradict Beaumont’s claims.
With 2.7 million female players around the globe, participation rates in women’s rugby have risen by 28 percent since 2017, while 40 percent of rugby’s 400 million-strong global fanbase is made up by females, according to Stuff.
Through their ‘Try Stop US’ campaign, World Rugby wants to further increase those numbers as it tries to push on and make women’s rugby equitable and equal with the men’s game.
“We firmly believe that the development of women in rugby is the single greatest opportunity for our sport to grow in the next decade,” Beaumont said in a World Rugby statement as the initiative was launched in Dublin.
“Not only is women’s rugby experiencing unprecedented growth around the world but we are well on the way to realising our vision of a more equitable game for all through the implementation of our ambitious strategic women’s action plan, which is having a transformational effect on all areas of the game.”
There are still six matches left to play in the Super Series, with the tournament culminating in match-ups between New Zealand v England and France v the United States at Torero Stadium in San Diego on July 14.
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