RFU Joins IWG Women and Sport

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11/11/2022 – The RFU will join the International Working Group (IWG), to further focus on advancing gender equality in rugby, in line with the union’s goal to develop the sport for women and girls.

The commitment to working jointly saw the RFU come together with IWG to sign the Brighton plus Helsinki Declaration, an international treaty that has become a road map to support the ongoing development of a fairer and more equitable system of sport and physical activity, fully inclusive of women and girls.

The Declaration was signed today in New Zealand at an event ahead of the 8th IWG Conference that will bring together 1,500 delegates committed to furthering equality in women’s sport.  Signatories included Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO, Sue Day, RFU COO and CFO and Steve Grainger, RFU Director of Rugby Development.

Focus areas for the partnership will be aligned to ‘Every Rose’ the RFU strategy for women and girls, covering all aspects of the sport with an aim to accelerate the pace of change for women’s rugby.


  • Driving equal access to pitches in England for women and girls, as part of Rugby World Cup legacy commitments: enabling women and girls to play at the time that best suits them and supports the growth of the game. This includes working with rugby clubs and Constituent Bodies (grassroots geographic representatives) to look at best practice.
  • Accelerating development of female leaders in universities and community clubs, also part of Rugby World Cup legacy activity.
  • Working to provide a leading voice to lobby and advocate with other stakeholders to fully support women and girls’ sport.
  • Working together with IWG and other groups working on behalf of women’s sport to continue to build actionable insights, develop resources and lobby cross sport collaboration on women’s sports policy.

Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO said: “Commitment to growing and developing the women’s game has been a huge priority in rugby union for some time.  The RFU is pleased to be joining with IWG in a strategic partnership that will, through our collective voice and action, accelerate the development of the sport for women and girls as we look towards the 2025 Rugby World Cup in England.” 

Sue Day, RFU COO and CFO said: “It’s fitting that we’re signing the declaration on the eve of the Rugby World Cup final; a competition that will have inspired many women and girls to get involved in the sport.  We recognise the power big global events such as this have in driving awareness and look forward to harnessing that impact as we build up to the 2025 Rugby World Cup.”

Lisa O’Keefe, Secretary General at IWG said: “I am delighted that the RFU is today signing up to the Principles of the Brighton Plus Helsinki Declaration, reaffirming their determination to not only deliver the RFU Strategy for Women and Girls but to accelerate the pace of change. I look forward to working with the RFU, helping share knowledge and learning throughout the IWG network globally.”


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