Levelling the Playing Field for Women’s Rugby

16th April 2024

Posted In: Be In The Frame

The British & Irish Lions Women’s Team Founding Partner, Royal London, has announced a £3 million (€3.5million) ‘Levelling the Playing Field’ Pathways Funding grant with the Unions of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England detailing how they will allocate funding received. The company is allocating the grants to support the elite women’s player and coach pathways in all four Unions. Each has developed its own tailored funding plan to match their needs.

In conjunction with the Lions funding announcement, Royal London has also announced Ireland rugby player Aoibheann Reilly as the organisation’s new brand ambassador.

Speaking of her new role as brand ambassador Aoibheann said, “I’m delighted to announce that I’ve become an ambassador for Royal London and Royal London Ireland. Royal London is a Founding Partner of the first-ever Lions Women’s team, they funded the feasibility study to see if a women’s tour was possible, and they are investing in elite player development and grassroots rugby in the UK and Ireland in the build-up ahead of the tour in 2027.

From my experience playing at club level, and now international level, I know firsthand the investment needed in the women’s game to nurture and develop talent, and it’s fantastic to see Royal London stepping up and supporting its long-term growth across the four nations.”

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has elected to use the funds to host additional women’s U18 and U20 camps and training matches to accelerate player development. It will also develop a ‘Coach Accelerator Scholarship Program’. The programme will accelerate coach capability and long-term career progression with a specific emphasis on removing gender-related career barriers. Coaches will be supported by high-performance mentors throughout the scholarship program. The IRFU will also work with universities to identify future talent and unearth potential high-performance players.

The aim of the funding is to help develop more players and coaches ahead of the inaugural Howden Lions Women’s Tour to New Zealand in 2027 and cements Royal London’s partnership with the Lions Women’s Team.

It follows the news that the first-ever Lions Women’s Tour will take place in New Zealand in September 2027. The series will include three Tests against the Black Ferns, the current world champions, alongside pre-Test fixtures.

Working collaboratively with the Unions and sharing research, ideas and experiences will help develop playing standards and give the Lions Women’s squad the best chance of winning in New Zealand.

To represent its investment in aspiring rugby players and coaches across Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, Royal London has commissioned a bespoke shirt to showcase what this investment will mean for women in rugby. Matthias Hamzaoui, an established artist and calligrapher, has designed the shirt that uses his iconic grayscale portraiture surrounded with typography quoting players, coaches and staff from across the four national women’s programmes on what this £3 million (€3.5million) bursary means for them.

Susie Logan, Group Chief Marketing Officer at Royal London, commented, “Our aim as the Founding Partner of the Women’s Lions Team is to play an integral part in levelling the playing field for women’s rugby.

The ‘Levelling the Playing Field’ grants we are announcing today further demonstrate our commitment to breaking down barriers and ensuring we’re able to support the development of women’s rugby at all levels.

“It’s been incredibly important to us that all Unions are actively involved and empowered to develop their own plans, ensuring optimal use of the funding across each nation. We’re looking forward to continuing our work in partnership with the Unions to ensure it makes a difference for the current and future generations.”

Ben Calveley, CEO, British & Irish Lions said, “Supporting the growth of the women’s game is a key strategic priority for The British & Irish Lions as it is for each of our constituent Unions. Royal London’s ‘Levelling the Playing Field’ grant represents a significant investment into the women’s game in the four Unions and will make a positive impact on women’s rugby.

Royal London are an outstanding partner to The British & Irish Lions and a consistent advocate both for the Lions Women’s Tour and for the women’s game.

We look forward to working closely with them over the coming years as we build towards this historic Tour in 2027.”