Racism and misogyny claims for rugby club after women's team disbanded

Liberton RFC's female players have criticised the club's committee after the team was disbanded over 'additional needs'.

Edinburgh Liberton rugby club accused of racism and misogyny after women’s team disbanded STV News

An Edinburgh rugby club is facing allegations of racism, misogyny and homophobia after cutting its women’s team.

Liberton RFC’s female players have criticised the club’s committee after it said it could no longer accommodate the “additional needs” of the squad.

In a player statement, the women’s team claimed the requirements were those of a coach and an administrator to take on tasks that had previously been completed by team members.

Players also accused the Liberton RFC committee of “decaying” their relationship over time by failing to resolve any issues raised appropriately.

Team captain, Jessica Sandham, told STV News there had been instances of committee members themselves making sexist, racist and homophobic comments towards members of the team.

When raised to the committee, these instances were ignored, Ms Sandham says.

“I won’t repeat any of the language used, but there were multiple instances of derogatory terms against certain minority groups that you will have heard before, and are absolutely unacceptable in 2023.”

Players suggested the committee hire a club welfare representative, in an effort to remedy building tensions before the disbanding.

However, it is claimed that was met with “significant resistance”.

“The leadership at a lot of these [rugby] clubs across Scotland do tend to be quite homogenous, and have certain thoughts and ideas,” Ms Sandham added.

“A lot of them may not even understand the need for a women’s team, much less to listen to us.

“So yeah, we do feel unheard and undervalued as a set.”

STV News has made repeated attempts to contact Liberton RFC for response. The committee’s vice president said he would make no statement on the allegations.

The women have asked the Scottish Rugby Union and World Rugby for support.

“If leadership teams across Scotland continue to appoint office bearers who think and act similarly, and who have similar lived experiences, grassroots Scottish rugby will suffer, and for women’s rugby the issue is more compounded,” the player statement concludes.

“More support is needed from the Scottish Rugby Union and World Rugby to build clubs that are truly inclusive and welcoming of people of all backgrounds, and to support players in challenging leadership teams that fail to uphold the World Rugby Code of Conduct.”

Other women’s teams have come together in support of the Liberton women.

Watsonians Women’s Rugby club said: “Grassroots women’s rugby should be an inclusive environment to grow not just rugby as a game, but to foster an inclusive environment for women of Scotland who continue to face racism, homophobia and misogyny both on and off the pitch.

“A rugby team should be a safe space, and we are sorry to hear our sisters at Liberton did not find this due to poor leadership.

“We look forward to seeing the Liberton players back on the pitch in whatever jersey they choose to wear. As always, you are more than welcome down to any of our sessions.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Rugby said: “Scottish Rugby has been in recent and regular contact with Liberton FP RFC and is aware of the issues being raised by the women’s team.

“Whilst no formal complaint has been received from the team we have reached out to them to understand if this is a route they intend to pursue.

“We are already in active discussions with the club about governance and take any claims and complaints of this nature very seriously. Scottish Rugby managers are also working with the players affected to investigate other options for them to continue playing locally in the meantime.

“We have a clear strategy to promote and grow the women and girls game and will continue to support those involved to ensure they can remain connected to the sport.”

World Rugby has been approached for comment.

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