Leeds Rhinos, whom are the reigning Betfred Women’s Super League Champions, are planning to expand their women’s operation. This is involving a winning bonus for each game next season, alongside meritocratic payments for success in the Challenge Cup and Grand Final competitions. The Rhinos believe this latest move is another step towards a professional women’s team and eventually a professional women’s competition.
What does this mean for women in sport?
Gender equality in sport has been an ongoing battle faced over history, and up to this present day. By Leeds Rhinos being the first British team to pay female players, this immensely displays their awareness and efforts to make a difference; this puts women in rugby, and in all sports, in better stead for the future as sportswomen, and for pursuing a career in their desired sport.
The female players already show their extensive passion and dedication for the sport on the pitch, therefore by them being financially supported from the club they devote themselves too, this can only result in increased commitment, compassion, and quality of their performance. The potential for growth and success from the players, and for all women in sport is ever-growing, and by Leeds making their mark in history, things will only get better for the club.
I see this act from Leeds Rhinos as a desired domino effect towards the rest of the sporting industry. The feelings of support and value which female players experienced from this announcement has the potential to ripple and impact the world of sport, as well as encouraging the younger generation of women to believe they can do it too, which will increase participation – forever growing the sport.
Promoting gender equality and empowering women/girls in sport is key for this movement to be noticed and have a successful effect. Adaoha Akwiwu, who plays on the wing at Leeds Rhinos, shares that “to be the first women’s rugby league team to be paid really tells the story on how the women’s game is progressing, there is such a high demand from the sport, and we are expected to meet that in a professional way and without having the funding is hard”.
By Leeds paying their players, this will have a positive impact on all of Leeds and their rugby status, as their players will remain loyal to their roots, as well as attracting other players from across the world, as they will see the positive and supportive network which the women play in. This will increase the amount of people watching the games, as well as elevating Leeds Rhinos brand/reputation.
How far have we come?
Women in sport have always felt the need to justify their position, justify their reason for participating, justify why they should be allowed to play etc. Slowly but surely, women in sport have been ticking off small boxes for equality, with no questions asked, just playing the game, and showing that they are worthy.
Despite England’s loss in the Rugby League World Cup against New Zealand, morale stays high as the players display their legacy of strength and resilience, proving that England is a force that can play against Australia and New Zealand at international level, and that women’s rugby in England is only becoming greater. As professional rugby players in Australia and New Zealand already get paid a salary, this means now for England, if we spread Leeds’s approach across the nation, not much is separating us from them – giving us more reason to go professional.
These are all milestones in which are building a more equal and respected space for women in sport, and with the integrity that Leeds Rhinos have shown, the club has and will continue to grow loyal support from women in and out of sport:
“Gender equality is such a key issue in 2022 and for Leeds to tackle the issue with being the first women’s team in Britain, it says enough in Leeds core values and what they think about the women’s team” – Adaoha Akwiwu.
What else can be done?
Getting the ball rolling with this movement in history will hopefully result in other clubs following in Leeds Rhinos’ footsteps, as there is still a great deal of work to do. Adaoha shares her views, explaining what else can be done to cause greater action: “I think that trying to make sure all teams have to try and make the effort to help players/staff, even if it is just fuel money, especially in the current financial crisis, and having to travel everywhere on top of that.”
Enhancing the women’s game is the direction in which all teams should strive to move towards, as the battle for equality in sport continues. By Leeds Rhinos making their remarkable actions to overcome gender inequality, their players can perform to the best of their ability, whilst feeling supported throughout the process. Their admirable work should hopefully influence others to do the same.
For further information on Leeds Rhinos Women’s team, visit their website.