Loughborough student delivers key recommendations for the future of women’s rugby union

Loughborough University MSc student, Bryony Robins has presented her recommendations to support of the future of women’s rugby union at a leading global conference.

Based on her MSc dissertation research – ‘How have elite women’s rugby players experienced a gendered treatment by clubs and governing bodies during the COVID-19 pandemic?’ – Bryony presented her findings at the XVI AEISAD International Congress.

The research explored such themes as how sport has been used to reinforce gender norms in society, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sport, and the experiences of elite female rugby players from the UK during the pandemic.

Tackling the ‘patriarchal gender hierarchy and androcentric culture that is still prevalent, reinforced during the pandemic, and that has solidified women’s position as “the other” in English Rugby’, Bryony’s recommendations are as follows:

  • To challenge this “other” narrative as we emerge out of the pandemic
  • To achieve equality of opportunity, funding and exposure within rugby the women’s game must be professionalised
  • Elite female rugby players interviewed as part of the research overwhelmingly identified that an increase in media exposure and coverage is the most realistic and achievable way to start bridging the gender gap in rugby
  • How significant investment into women’s rugby is now required

Supported by Dr Susana Monserrat-Revillo, Bryony chose to undertake the research following a 2020 House of Commons report highlighting that COVID-19 would have a disproportionate impact on women’s elite sport.

This followed the postponement of the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup and the cancellation of the women’s 2019-20 Premiership rugby season, as well as the implementation of the 2020-21 Premiership rugby with 9 rule changes and a late testing programme in the women’s game.  

Gender equality in sport has a long way to go

Bryony, who is studying Sport Management, Politics and International Relations at the University explained:

“I feel incredibly privileged to have been given the opportunity to present my research at the XVI AEISAD International Congress and honoured that it has been recognised externally.

“I hope that my research will allow people to see that although gender equality in sport has come a long way, there is still a long way to go.

“I want it to encourage people to question the current sporting norms we see every day, and hopefully it will inspire change and make the sporting landscape a more inclusive and equal space for women.”

Dr Susana Monserrat-Revillo added:

“I think any research applied to gender inequality in sport can have a huge impact on society as it is a way to show this is still a current issue although sporting opportunities for women have grown.

“Bryony has highlighted some unjustifiable gender inequalities that have taken place during the pandemic.

“Traditionally, competitive sport has been a male dominated arena, especially in organisations such as national governing bodies (NGBs), so it is necessary to have more conversations about gender inequality, especially during crisis when vulnerable groups and women are more exposed.

“Sport organisations sometimes apply different policies for women and men, and it should not be happening in 2021.”

To find out more about Bryony’s experience at Loughborough, visit our Student Stories webpage.