'They did release a more conciliatory statement' - Minister 'optimistic' IRFU will mend relations with women's players

The Union have performed a major u-turn in confirming they will publish two ongoing reviews in full.

Jack Chambers.
Jack Chambers.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

DEPUTY SPORTS MINISTER Jack Chambers says he believes relations will be improved between the IRFU and the many disenchanted players and former players who put their name to a powerful letter criticising the Union earlier this month, while confirming Sport Ireland will perform an oversight role in the process. 

62 female players – a mingling of present internationals and former players - sent an explosive letter to Chambers’ department last Friday week, asking the government to intervene as they had lost confidence in the IRFU’s stewardship of the women’s game.

The players accentuated what they believe to be “multiple cycles of substandard commitment from the union” toward the women’s game, accused the IRFU of “inequitable and untrustworthy leadership” and called on the Union to publish in full the findings of two ongoing reviews of the women’s game. To now, the IRFU’s policy across the men and women’s game has been merely to brief the media on a number of “key findings”, rather than publish reviews in full. 

The IRFU hit back with their own strongly-worded statement, expressing “disappointment” with the timing of the letter given the reviews are ongoing, while “refuting” the letter’s “overall tenor.” 

Minister Chambers said he was “very disappointed” by the IRFU’s initial response, which has hastened a change of tone from the Union.

They have now performed a u-turn and committed to publishing the reviews in full, saying they will now “work tirelessly to mend and build the relationship.”

Chambers has met with a group of players and the IRFU, and, speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show this morning, thanked the players for the “the leadership and courage they have shown.”

He says he is “optimistic” that the IRFU can mend the relationship.  

“They have outlined their concerns and there are three core asks and I’m optimistic having engaged with them and the IRFU that this can move forward”, said Chambers. 

“They are seeking the publication of the reviews which will now happen. They are looking for better engagement and dialogue with the IRFU and they will meet each other in the New Year to begin this process.

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“And they are also looking for oversight and implementation of issues in women’s rugby and Sport Ireland will also be engaged in that process.”

“It is all about building trust and enhancing respect,” he continued. 

“I was very disappointed with the IRFU’s statement last Monday week but they did release a more conciliatory statement.

“They acknowledge they need to listen and engage and now I’m confident we have a way forward focusing on solutions and a positive pathway and that’s what I’m focused on going forward.”

With reporting by Murray Kinsella 

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