With women’s participation in sport the hot topic of the week, The Gryphon’s Adam LeRoux caught up with Emily Scarratt and Tamara Taylor of England’s Women’s Rugby World Cup winning side during Varsity last week.
The pair showed off their silverware during halftime at Headingley, and when asked about their victory in Paris back in August Taylor recounts the feeling of finally getting her hands on the trophy; ‘We hadn’t won the trophy in 20 years, and with it being my third world cup there was a feeling of relief, as well as elation. Losing by just three points the time before was terrible, so actually winning this time around was a huge relief.’ In fact, in the last three World Cups before this year the English side have come runners up each time, so a win was long overdue.
The issue that blights sport in the modern day is why are stars from the men’s game like Owen Farrell and Chris Ashton household names with neither having tasted International success whereas players like Rochelle Clark, who has nearly 100 England caps and a World Cup winners medal to her name not recognised as much? Scarratt goes on; ‘Naturally we don’t get as much coverage as the men’s game, but it is shifting, we are starting to get more coverage on the newspaper and telly. Things like the World Cup, which was shown on Sky, and the success England have had recently, will encourage more media coverage in the future.’
Both women were also keen to stress how numbers have improved greatly in recent times, with Taylor stating ‘Numbers can always be increased, but even so it is a lot better than it was before. London 2012 was the starting point in the UK for getting women in the media and therefore people were starting to see that you can be a female athlete and be successful. Women have started to realise you can do a whole myriad of different sports, it doesn’t matter what it is’.
Scarratt then added ‘Hopefully our World Cup has done something similar, not on the same scale as the Olympics, but hopefully the more people that learn about the sport realise there is another opportunity for them out there.’ Things seem promising for women’s sport then, although the statistics don’t seem to be backing that up; The House of Commons released statistics recently stating that there is double the amount of 18 year old women not taking part in sport at least once a month compared to men. The same report showed 18-25 year old women among one of the only groups to show no increase in sport participation since 2005, an issue that is trying to be addressed.
Both Taylor and Scarratt come across as very modest women, with their feet planted firmly on the ground. They understand the issues with the women’s game, and recognise it is not something that will be fixed overnight. Scarratt deals with the issue of investment into the women’s game supremely well: ‘Ultimately, investment and sponsorships will help, once it is in the media sponsors will invest, and it is difficult to break into the circle initially. It is a long process that also needs people like us to promote the success women have in sport so people can recognise our success as well.’
One major breakthrough in recent times is the 20 women’s rugby players who have turned professional in the 7s game. Taylor went on to say that the Olympics have played a big part in the idea, as the funding through the Olympic scheme helps a great deal. ‘The 15s is a lot more difficult because of the lack of funding; right now we need to focus on building the domestic game for the 15s. That’s the basis for everything’.
So victory on the field is just the start for these World Cup winners, it is the first of many rungs on the ladder to achieving enough acknowledgement and respect for the commitment they put into their success. The road may be long, but the future is definitely looking bright.