World Rugby and IWG announce strategic relationship through to 2026

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World Rugby and NZ Rugby commit delegation of up to 70 leaders to join the 8th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport

  • Call to action to sports leaders to get behind the gender equality in sport movement by identifying and championing female leaders
  • World Rugby to send up to 50 female leaders to the 8th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport in New Zealand, with New Zealand Rugby confirming a further local delegation of 20
  • Rugby World Cup 2021 set to celebrate female leaders on and off the field

World Rugby and the International Working Group (IWG) on Women & Sport have launched a call to action encouraging global sports leaders to get behind the gender equality in sport movement.

Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand, taking place from 8 October-12 November, is set to champion the advancement of women in sport. Dovetailing into this, the 8th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport will take place from 14-17 November, with hundreds of global sports leaders gathering in Auckland and online to work together to design and launch real practical solutions.

The two organisations have pledged to work together over the next four years, starting this November, to raise awareness of the need for positive change and action right across the sports system through collaboration on a series of shared initiatives. The collaboration, which supports the objectives of World Rugby’s Women in Rugby Plan 2017-25, will create an impactful alliance by connecting the next two women’s Rugby World Cups in Aotearoa New Zealand and 2025 in England with the next two IWG World Conferences on Women & Sport in 2022 and 2026 in the UK.

World Rugby Director of Women’s Rugby Sally Horrox said: “World Rugby is actively working to reset the dial for women and girls in rugby across the globe, across every rugby region. Guided by an impactful plan, we are creating a global movement – everyone is welcome, and everyone will have their part to play.

“As part of our commitment, we are delighted to be entering a strategic relationship with the International Working Group on Women & Sport, who are the standard bearer for the advancement of women in sport. With that in mind, we are supporting our Executive Leadership Scholars and other female leaders across our unions to stay in New Zealand after Rugby World Cup this year to access the world’s best strategic thinking and practical solutions at the IWG World Conference.”

The IWG is the world’s largest network dedicated to advancing gender equity and equality in sport, physical education and physical activity. Established in 1994, the IWG Secretariat moves nations every four years, with the new host supporting the network, continuing global advocacy work, and running its own initiatives. The IWG developed and remains guardian of the Brighton plus Helsinki 2014 Declaration, which now has the commitment of nearly 600 signatories worldwide. Every four years it stages the IWG World Conference on Women & Sport. In late 2021, it launched the IWG Insight Hub – an interactive collection of research, case studies and toolkits to help advance change.

Rugby World Cup will kick-off on 8 October at Eden Park in the heart of Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, with 12 of the best women’s rugby teams in the world scheduled to put on an epic show through until the final on 12 November. The 8th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport then kicks off the following day with a VIP event, with the conference underway from 14-17 November.

The strategic relationship will kick-off with the current IWG Aotearoa New Zealand Secretariat 2018-22, Women in Sport Aotearoa, Ngā Wāhine Hākinakina o Aotearoa and will include:

  • A commitment by World Rugby to send up to 50 female leaders to the 8th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport, and a further commitment by New Zealand Rugby to send a local delegation of 20
  • A call to action to other global sports leaders to do the same, by combining attendance at the Rugby World Cup 2021 final on 12 November with the 8th IWG World Conference, 14-17 November
  • Both organisations to collaborate on guest speakers and panellists for Women in Rugby events being hosted during Rugby World Cup 2021 and at the 8th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport
  • World Rugby to host the IWG Global Executives at the Rugby World Cup 2021 final on 12 November
  • A commitment to work with the incoming IWG Secretariat in the United Kingdom as it develops its plans to promote gender equity and equality in sport over the next four years leading up to the IWG World Conference being hosted in Birmingham in 2026.

IWG Aotearoa New Zealand Secretary General Rachel Froggatt said: We are thrilled to be staging the ultimate ‘double header’ for women’s sport in Aotearoa New Zealand this year, by connecting Rugby World Cup – a fantastic showcase for female athletes, coaches and administrators – with the IWG World Conference, the world’s largest gathering to advance positive change within the system.

“World Rugby is a long-time signatory to the Brighton plus Helsinki Declaration, and it’s fantastic to be strengthening this relationship and assisting them on their journey toward gender equality in rugby. We’re confident this will lead to a similar strengthening of relationships our other signatories, including the International Federations preparing to join us in Aotearoa New Zealand in November.”

Claire Beard, Head of Women’s Rugby at New Zealand Rugby, said: “It’s so exciting to have both Rugby World Cup 2021 and the IWG World Conference here in Aotearoa – what a time for women’s rugby. We, as an organisation, are pleased to provide our team with the opportunity to attend the IWG Conference, and support the growth of women and girls rugby both domestically and globally.” 

In late 2022, the strategic relationship will transition to the United Kingdom team, hosted by the Sport and Recreation Alliance, as incoming host for the IWG Secretariat and World Conference 2022-2026 ahead of Rugby World Cup 2025 in England.

IWG United Kingdom Secretary General Lisa O’Keefe said: “I am delighted that IWG Women & Sport and World Rugby will be working closely together over the next four years. This partnership provides a great opportunity to not only share knowledge and learning but also demonstrate the power and impact of such collaborations to grow the opportunities for women and girls to take part and excel in sport.”

Earlybird for the 8th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport closes 31 August, 2022. Group and Delegation Packages are available now, with a call to action to ‘Register your Delegation’. Confirmed delegations include World Rugby, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Oceania Hockey, the Japan Sports Council, and many more: https://iwgwomenandsport.org/register-group-delegation/

About Women in Sport Aotearoa

Women in Sport Aotearoa, Ngā Wāhine Hākinakina o Aotearoa, exists to transform society through leadership, advocacy and research, ensuring that all women and girls gain equity of opportunity to participate, compete and build careers in play, active recreation and sport in Aotearoa New Zealand.

WISPA was established by 22 original Foundation Members – made up of senior women from across sport, business, government, and academia – and launched on UN International Women’s Day 2017. Its strategic vision is to see ‘women and girls valued, visible and influential in sport’. It is working toward this through delivery of insight and research, change leadership, advocacy campaigns, speaking engagements and events like the Captains’ Lunch and the Sport NZ Women and Girls Summit.

WISPA works across Aotearoa New Zealand and is currently delivery agent for the International Working Group (IWG) on Women and Sport Secretariat and Conference 2018-22, with the 8th IWG World Conference taking place in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and Online between 14-17 November 2022. The conference is being designed and staged by WISPA, with support from more than 150 volunteers.

Women in Sport Aotearoa is a charity. Its funding comes from a mix of grants and trusts, donations, fundraising, gifts and commercial partnerships. Visit www.womeninsport.org.nz to learn more or donate.

About the International Working Group (IWG) on Women and Sport

The IWG is the world’s largest network dedicated to empowering women and girls and advancing sport. Established in 1994, the IWG advocates for gender equity in sport and physical activity year-round, partnering with key agencies, including UN Women and UNESCO. It developed and remains guardian of the Brighton plus Helsinki 2014 Declaration on Women & Sport, which now has almost 600 signatories, and delivers the well-respected IWG Progress Report at the quadrennial IWG World Conference. The IWG administrative function moves every four years and is currently in Aotearoa New Zealand. In mid 2021 it was announced that the IWG Secretariat and World Conference 2022-26 quadrennial will be hosted by the United Kingdom, with the Sport and Recreation Alliance taking over as global delivery agency in mid 2022. The IWG UK Secretariat will be hosted in London and the 9th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport will take place in Birmingham in mid-2026.

For more information, visit www.iwgwomenandsport.org.

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