Ballincollig RFC: Not all Munster rugby players are considered equal

Cork club left frustrated after withdrawal of a motion at the Munster Branch AGM prevented them securing their status as a senior club
Ballincollig RFC: Not all Munster rugby players are considered equal

Ballincollig RFC committee members and sponsors at the launch of the pitch redevelopment at Tanner Park. Picture: Brian Lougheed

BALLINCOLLIG RFC have hit out at Munster Rugby chiefs after a motion to grant women’s All-Ireland League clubs senior status was withdrawn at the Munster Branch AGM.

A club statement reads: “Ballincollig RFC are shocked and disappointed that, after 12 months in the works, the motion to grant Women’s AIL clubs senior status was withdrawn without notice or explanation before the Munster Branch AGM.

“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with Munster Rugby and the IRFU to see what steps can be taken to rectify this and bring our province in line with the others who recognise their Women’s AIL clubs as senior.

“In what has been a turbulent period for the Women’s game it is disappointing that equality is still something that needs to be fought for and that not all Munster rugby players are considered equal.”

As well as catering for female players at elite level, Ballincollig has an impressive modern complex, including a popular bar, and fields teams at underage level across the board. They are currently involved in an ambitious 10-year plan to offer state-of-the-art facilities to male and female players.

Ballincollig was established in 1978, playing their first friendly game in March that year, against Highfield.

The move not to proceed with a vote to recognise women’s AIL clubs with the same senior status as men's side has been blasted across the board in all sectors of Irish rugby.

Ballincollig director of rugby Denis Stevenson told the Irish Examiner: “We feel let down. We were told this would be in hand, there were 130 people in the room and when it came to the motions we were told that the women’s motions were withdrawn. No reason given.” 

Stevenson described the reaction to the announcement within the room as a “dignified silence”. 

“As a club, we were very disappointed given the effort that our team put into it and to not have the opportunity to get the senior status as every other club playing AIL.

“Leinster Branch did it last March so Munster are the only province not to change and there’s only one club out of 60 that doesn’t have senior status and it’s down to the gender of their team.”

Munster Rugby on Friday insisted the motions submitted had been “deferred” in order to allow time for “appropriate consultation with all key stakeholders” given that what was being proposed required amendments to branch bye-laws.

One glaring issue is that Connacht, Leinster and Ulster have already awarded the same senior status to women’s AIL clubs.

That means, out of 60 clubs across the women’s and men’s Energia All-Ireland Leagues, only Ballincollig RFC are on the outside looking in.

Munster Rugby sought to clarify their position by saying they could still be voted on as early as this June’s scheduled AGM.

“The motions submitted by the Munster Rugby Women’s Sub-Committee have been deferred to allow time for appropriate consultation with all key stakeholders,” the Munster statement read.

“The motions submitted in the last week proposed amendments to the Munster Rugby Branch Bye-Laws with reference to the All-Ireland League (or its equivalent) and Senior Club status with both terms to represent the men’s and women’s game.” 

 Munster Branch President Sean McCullough explained: “While the Branch supports the proposed motions, we need to undertake a comprehensive review of the Bye-Laws and engage with all stakeholders to ensure we make the appropriate and necessary changes.

“As we all promote and support increased inclusivity and diversity across the game, we need to ensure our club’s governance structures reflect this and that we are catering for our community.”

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