Calls for professional status and equal opportunities in Welsh women’s sports
A councillor from Gwynedd is calling for women’s sport to be professionalised so that women have the same opportunities and pay as men.
Gwynedd Council Councillor Judith Humphreys is highlighting the issue in advance of International Women’s Day on Tuesday to encourage a level playing field for women in Welsh sport and beyond.
In January, the Welsh Rugby Union announced that 12 women were to receive full-time professional contracts for the first time in the history of the game, and although women’s wages within rugby remain much lower than men’s, Cllr Humphreys, of Penygroes, said it’s a step in the right direction.
She said: “I’ve been in contact with Professor Laura McAllister of Cardiff University, who has direct experience, as a former Wales international football player. Her expertise has been a real eye opener.
“Likewise, hearing Victoria Ward, chief executive of the Welsh Sports Association talk about some players’ history, in particular the flanker of the Welsh women’s rugby team, Alisha Butchers, is heart-breaking.
“Alisha felt the need to turn to a public fundraising appeal, Crowdfunder, to pay for surgery after she was injured on the rugby pitch. Victoria Ward says we would never see a player from the men’s team, someone like Alun Wyn Jones, having to turn to a Crowdfunder appeal to pay for surgery after an injury!”
The challenges facing women’s rugby player Teleri Wyn Davies, originally from Bala, led her to make the difficult decision to quit playing semi-professionally for Sale Sharks RFC in Manchester.
She found juggling the conflicting commitments of her law studies and having to travel from her home in Groeslon to train with the rugby team in Manchester three times a week, as well as training with Cymru’s squad in Cardiff impossible.
Teleri, who has won four international caps for the Welsh rugby team, and now coaches Caernarfon’s Under 7s, said: “There were not enough hours in the day.
“Ultimately trying to keep juggling all those balls in the air was extremely hard, and I had to make a decision which career path I wanted to pursue.
“The reality is, had I been offered a professional contract to play for the Welsh women’s rugby team earlier in my career, I probably would have accepted that offer.
“The new contracts are definitely a step in the right direction, but many of the women who have accepted the contracts are still forced to work, due to the low wages.
“There is a need to continue to press for change to achieve greater equality and fairness for women in sport.”
Plaid Cymru Gwynedd Chair, Elin Walker Jones said: “There are many areas of sport where women are under-achieving and under-represented.
“I totally agree with Judith’s call that sports boards at all levels need women to represent other women.
“Ensuring that there are suitable facilities for women’s sports, especially in football and rugby, is also crucial.
“There needs to be equal coverage with men within the media and in the press.
“Only when the focus on women sports on our television, radio, magazines, newspapers and social media is proportionate, will we see any real progress.
“When girls and young women see women achieving, reaching their goals and succeeding in sports – it will give them the confidence and vision to give sports a go.”
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