IRFU CEO Philip Browne apologises for women's facilities scandal

Irish Rugby CEO Philip Browne has apologised for the scandal that arose around changing facilities f...

IRFU CEO Philip Browne apologi...


IRFU CEO Philip Browne apologises for women's facilities scandal

Irish Rugby CEO Philip Browne has apologised for the scandal that arose around changing facilities for the women's inter-pro series. 

Last month an investigation was launched into the reasons why Connacht and Ulster players were forced to change in squalid conditions next to bins at Energia Park in Donnybrook.

The IRFU and Leinster offered almost immediate apologies for the incidents, saying at the time, "These temporary facilities should have been set up in a more appropriate area."

On Wednesday, the IRFU said a full review was conducted by the association's legal counsel, Sean Brassil. He interviewed all four provincial captains and took written reports and interviews with personnel from the provinces and the IRFU itself.

Brassil's report found that COVID-19 difficulties played a role, but were not ultimately responsible for how events transpired.

He found:

  • Ambiguity as to responsibility for the organisation of the final weekend of fixtures for the series.
  • Knock-on confusion as to some of the operational and logistical elements of the event planning on the day.
  • A lack of personnel and resources on the ground to properly manage the weekend fixtures.

As a result, the following specific recommendations have been made:

  • A new set of guidelines in relation to the running of the Women’s Interprovincial Championship should be prepared to ensure a minimum standard of facilities. To prevent ambiguity, this must identify the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder, improve information sharing and reporting lines and establish a complaint escalation procedure.
  • Additional training and support should be provided to event and facilities management staff and volunteers.
  • To empower player-voice, a dedicated female Liaison Officer should be appointed by the Provincial branches to support and assist players to deal confidentially with any issues they may have in relation to facilities with appropriate authority to address any issues that arise.

CEO Philip Browne offered his take on Brassil's report, saying: "Everyone was appalled by the conditions the players had to endure.

"From the moment we became aware of the issues we apologised on behalf of all involved and resolved to ensure this would not happen again, I want to strongly echo that commitment once again today.

"A significant amount of work went into the delivery of what was a highly entertaining interpro series.

"However, a series of errors has overshadowed the games, we all take responsibility for such failings and vow to do better by implementing the recommendations of this review.”

Separately, former Wales international Amanda Bennett has been tasked with overseeing a review into Ireland's failure to qualify for the Women's Rugby World Cup.

Defeats to Spain and Scotland at the European qualifier in Parma cost Adam Griggs' side a place at next year's finals in New Zealand.

Bennett will helm a review into the Ireland team's preparation, participation and performance around Rugby World Cup qualification.

The findings of that review will feed - the IRFU say - into a broader stocktaking of the women's game in the country.

Association senior vice-president John Robinson will chair the group, assisted by Browne and IRFU committee members Fiona Steed and Su Carty.

They will examine:

  • The alignment between the Domestic Game and the High-Performance areas in relation to targets set out in the IRFU Women in Rugby Action Plan.
  • A review of women’s player pathways (including 15s, 7s and all other formats of the game) and plans for their development over time.
  • A review of women’s competition structures.
  • Extensive stakeholder engagement will be undertaken as part of the process. It is anticipated the ‘Women in Rugby Action Plan’ review will be completed in early in 2022

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