The navigation of a traditionally masculine sport: a gendered exploration of resource access in rugby

Navigation of a traditionally masculine sport

In this study, women described limited visibility of the women's game. This included the men's teams failing to reciprocate support for the women's teams, a lack of recognition for women players, and men's unawareness of their club's women's team. These sentiments were pervasive, with participants reporting that rugby was synonymous with men's rugby. This under-appreciation of the women's game was viewed as societal norm that perpetuates gender stereotypes.

Hard and soft infrastructure: who needs what?

Participants discussed gender biases in resource access, predominantly in relation to physical resources, coaching quality, opportunities, and pitch-side medical resources. Managers were reported to be disproportionately male, and to exhibit gender bias in their actions. Women players reported a widespread under-prioritisation of their teams, with insufficient player numbers precluding the formation of second teams. This often resulted in inexperienced players competing beyond their ability, undermining their experience of the sport. These findings highlight the ways in which gender biases are embedded within rugby clubs.

Findings

This exploratory study highlights a need to address issues of gender bias in rugby to protect player welfare. To enact meaningful change, interventions to change culture within rugby clubs, and increased representation of women in managerial positions in rugby, are recommended.

Limitations

This study was undertaken in the UK and therefore, findings may not be generalisable. The small sample size necessitated an opportunistic sampling approach, and so findings may not be representative. Whilst the study benefitted from interviewing a non-binary participant, findings may not fully represent their experience, as challenges specific to non-binary individuals may not have been explored.

Conclusion

This exploratory study highlights a need to address gendered experiences in rugby to protect player welfare. Such experiences include limited visibility of the women's game, and gender biases in resource access that disadvantage women players. To protect player welfare, cultural change interventions within clubs, and increased representation of women in managerial positions in rugby, are recommended.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the participants for giving up their time to speak to us. This research would not have been possible without them. We are also extremely grateful to Dr Nicola Payne for her advice and support with recruitment, and Dr Emma Holyoake and Dr Kate Ingle for their advice and support with reflexive thematic analysis. This project has received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) under the Scholarship for Strengthening Impact of Social Sciences (ESRC SSISS), awarded to Freja Petrie (Ref: 323059).

References

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Mackintosh K, McNarry M, Starbuck C, Holyoake K, Ingle K, Rees D. An exploration of community rugby union players' perceptions of the ideal

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