Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Opinion: The Case For A Women’s World Tens Series

Posted on 2 December 2020 by Lewis Pangratiou

The inaugural men’s World Tens Series reached its conclusion last month as South African side SX10 were crowned champions in sunny Bermuda.

The setup offered men’s players from all formats of the game the opportunity to play an exciting new brand of rugby.

And to top it off, high-quality broadcasting meant fans around the world could see the players put on a show.

Organisers overcame some pretty significant challenges along the way, especially after a South American franchise withdrew from the competition for COVID reasons, and the tournament was ultimately a success.

It all seems so rosy when it’s put like that – when it’s considered to be thrilling, landmark entertainment – but it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Instead, one is left with unanswered questions.

Why would the organisers put in so much effort to host just one tournament? More to the point, why wasn’t there a women’s World Tens Series?

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Once again, tournament organisers missed out on an opportunity to show that women’s sport matters too.

We know that sport in general has suffered because of the pandemic, and yes, every cancellation has been a tragedy in its own right. But in all too familiar fashion, women’s sport has taken the biggest hit. The sad thing is, it isn’t even remotely surprising.

You only have to think back to a matter of weeks ago to be reminded of the evident inequality in rugby after the women’s Six Nations tournament was cancelled with just three matches remaining.

Yet organisers still managed to find the time, and of course the money, to host the remaining games of the men’s competition.

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England Sevens star Heather Fisher voiced her frustration about inequality in sport: “[It] is just a frustrating thing as a female in sport,” she said.

“Whether it’s life, business or sport, you work your socks off and you’re always having to prove yourself that [bit] extra.

“I just feel like it should be equal. You’re in a world where men still kind of have the upper hand and it’s just frustrating.”

It’s been a gruelling few months for Fisher and the rest of the Sevens contingent after the RFU cut the programme’s funding. With opportunities few and far between, some of the men’s players were fortunate enough to play in Bermuda.

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Fisher of course wanted every single one of them to do well, but the fact that the women’s player’s weren’t out there at the same time didn’t quite sit right with her.

“If you’re going to put a tournament on, why wouldn’t it be gender neutral? I think it’s pretty poor to be honest with you,” she said.

Although the world has made huge strides in recognising the importance of women’s sport in the last few years, this serves as another distressing warning that there is still so much more to be done.

However, if there is anything positive to come from this situation, it is that this was only the first tournament – a so called “trial” run if we’re accepting the obvious error in judgement.

The organisers have some time to reflect on their plans for next year. Let’s hope that they don’t make the same mistake twice.