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Minister Jack Chambers critical of IRFU response to disgruntled players

Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers has voiced his criticism at the IRFU's response to a le...

Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers has voiced his criticism at the IRFU's response to a letter complaining about their handling of the women's game.

62 current and former players wrote to Ministers Chambers and Catherine Martin this week complaining of "untrustworthy leadership" from the IRFU.

The letter brought to a head the frustrations of players - past and present - at how women's rugby has been treated by those tasked with its nurturing.

In response, the IRFU criticised the tenor of the letter and its timing - with two reviews into the domestic women's game ongoing.

Minister Chambers appeared before the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media where the challenges facing women's sport was on the agenda.

He was asked by Senator Shane Cassells if the IRFU will face a cut to their funding if the issues facing women's rugby are not sufficiently addressed.

"We'll be engaging in a very frank and comprehensive way with the IRFU on the issues that have been raised by the players," said Minister Chambers.

"They've [players] shown tremendous leadership - not only as players representing the country, but also in trying to grow women's rugby over the last number of years.

"I absolutely respect - and take extremely seriously - what they've set out to us.

"And that's why we've sought to do three things. We'll fully engage with the IRFU, and reflect all the issues they've raised.

"We've also asked Sport Ireland to engage with the players around providing assistance and guidance, and we're willing to meet the players ourselves as well.

"I was disappointed with some of the remarks made in the statement from the IRFU - I think it could have been more conciliatory in its approach - and I'll certainly reflect that when I meet them.

"We need to be solution-focused. We need to have a constructive pathway that deals with the issues raised by the players, and that's what I'm focused on doing now. So I'll engage with all parties.

"We've obviously involved Sport Ireland, who will play an important role here in terms of providing a solution, and have a lot of expertise around resolving difficulties within and between sporting organisations."

The Minister said his department is willing to meet with the players as soon as next week, while engagement with Sport Ireland will happen before Christmas.

When pressed if threats of withholding funding by Senator Cassells would bring the IRFU around, Minister Chambers replied, "I won't preempt the discussions that we're going to have with the IRFU, with the players and everyone involved.

"As I've said, I think the statement should have been more concilliatory, and I don't think it was helpful in the context of trying to resolved the issues raised.

"We'll engage in a robust and frank way with the IRFU to reflect on the issues, but also to focus on resolving the matters raised to their satisfaction."

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