David Hands, Rugby Correspondent
AS THEIR erstwhile rivals returned home yesterday a posse of weary women paused to reflect on their achievements of the last week in organising the first world tournament for women rugby players. If 12 competing countries does not appear, on the surface, to embrace the entire globe it has been, none the less, a considerable success.
The event, which reached its climax on Sunday in Cardiff when the United States beat England 19-6 in the final, has been run on a shoestring, with none of the trappings of the modern men's game no big sponsors, no back-up, limited accommodation, but huge reserves of enthusiasm and considerable organisational skill. It was a tournament run for players by players who were prepared to risk their own money to bring their particular dream to fruition, and in that sense has taken rugby back to its original and purest roots.
Although the final accounts have yet to be drawn up, the crowd of just under 3,000 for the final ensured that there would be an overall loss of between Pounds 10,000 and Pounds 15,000, including accommodation costs for the penniless Soviet team. Acts of generosity by individuals and firms and clubs in and around Cardiff could not offset that deficit. After the closing banquet, it was claimed businessmen were prepared to cover any shortfall.
The organising committee deserves such generosity, though there is also a moral responsibility on the men's game to ensure that none of the women is out of pocket: the International Rugby Football Board, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union were all represented at the final and they have been told how hard the women have worked to keep costs down. Indeed a draft set of accounts will be sent to the Sports Council later this week and it is hoped that the necessary financial assistance may be forthcoming.
``I don't think anyone thought we would actually get it off the ground when we went round looking for sponsors,'' Deborah Griffin, the organising committee chairwoman, said. ``We were never in doubt but we had to convince other people. Now that we have done it the next tournament, in 1994, may be easier.''
During the summer, countries interested in hosting the next World Cup can put in bids which will be considered during a meeting in Madrid in September.
Most of the competing countries are affiliated to their men's national union. It is interesting to observe that the Women's Rugby Football Union, the umbrella for the game in the four home countries, is not, which may be the answer to why, when enough women came to believe in a world tournament, they got on and organised one which worked and which indicated the rising standards in such countries as Italy and Spain.
Copyright (C) The Times, 1991
"Women take game back to its roots and realise dream; Rugby Union." Times [London, England] 16 Apr. 1991