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IRFU release findings of investigation into 'unacceptable' facilities at women's interpros

Irish rugby’s governing body also announced an independent review into the Ireland women’s failed 2021 Rugby World Cup qualifying campaign.

Connacht and Ulster in action at Energia Park on 11 September.
Connacht and Ulster in action at Energia Park on 11 September.
Image: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

Updated Oct 20th 2021, 5:01 PM

THE IRFU HAS released findings and recommendations from a review into the changing facilities provided at the Women’s Interprovincial Championship. 

Back in September, the conditions at Energia Park were heavily criticised after the final round of fixtures. 

Connacht team’s pre-match base was located in a derelict area of the ground next to bins and both the IRFU and Leinster Rugby came out to apologise for the error

The Connacht players released a statement explaining their disappointment, and called for an investigation into the decision-making process which led to the circumstances. 

Today, the IRFU announced that the review — undertaken by IRFU legal counsel Sean Brassil — has been completed.

The four team captains were interviewed along with personnel from each of the provinces and the IRFU. 

It found that although the Covid-19 pandemic had caused significant issues, that was not the main factor behind the inadequate facilities. 

“Everyone was appalled by the conditions the players had to endure,” said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne.

“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.”

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A number of problems were identified, including:

  • 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.

The following recommendations have been made and will be implemented. The IRFU say they also will lead to the appointment of an individual who is responsible “for the delivery of appropriate structures for the women’s interprovincial championships” in the future.

  • 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.

The IRFU also announced an independent review into the Ireland women’s failed 2021 Rugby World Cup qualifying campaign as part of a broader structural review of the implementation of 2018–2023 Women In Rugby Action Plan.

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