Ian Ritchie defends RFU over decision to axe England Women’s contracts

Rugby Football Union boss Ian Ritchie has written to shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan to defend the decision to not renew the contracts of the England Women’s 15-a-side team.

Dr Allin-Khan wrote to Ritchie last Tuesday to urge him to reconsider the move as it suggested the RFU was “far less than fully committed” to the women’s game.

This letter, which was signed by 124 MPs from across the political spectrum, was sparked by news that the contracts of the England players aiming to defend their World Cup crown in Ireland next month will expire after the tournament, with the RFU’s focus shifting to sevens.

Dr Allin-Khan wrote that the RFU policy of “cycling” between contracts for sevens and 15-a-side rugby, depending on the next target, was “placing the risk of playing international rugby on the players themselves” and it was unfair to expect them to “pause and resume” their careers every two years.

“For an organisation with a total annual revenue in the hundreds of millions, to make this decision is deeply disappointing,” she added.

“Surely the RFU should be focused on investing in both aspects of the women’s game and should be prepared to back this up with secure contracts for both teams – 7s and 15s. After all, this is the commitment the RFU has made to the men’s game.”

But on Friday, Ritchie wrote back to Dr Allin-Khan to say the RFU was “extremely proud” of its record in women’s rugby and that it takes “player welfare extremely seriously”.

In the letter, which Press Association Sport has seen, Ritchie said: “There are 17 players on full-time contracts this season and there will be 17 players on full-time contracts next season.

“Because there is significant crossover between 7s and 15s players in international women’s rugby, many of the players on 15s contracts will transition to 7s contracts.

“It would harm the performance of both the 7s and 15s teams if we were to treat them as separate elite…

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