08 March 2021
In celebration of International Women’s Day, I sat down with Claire Antcliffe, a Match Official Developer with the Rugby Football Union, and Edie Wright, a young rugby player and member of Hackney RFC, to share experiences.
As women involved in sports and the sporting workforce, we #ChooseToChallenge the sporting community to continue to provide more opportunities for young women and girls to engage in sports and physical activity.
Claire describes herself as sporty and has always had a love of sport but didn’t get into rugby until she discovered it at university, when her passion for the sport took off. Edie, by contrast, says she used to hate rugby for no reason at all, until she went to see a game with her grandpa and was intrigued by the sport. When the all-schools programme came to her school her love of rugby began, and she ended up playing in Hackney and completing her work experience placement in Middlesex introducing rugby to other schools.
I asked Claire and Edie if they had any advice for other women who might not be very sporty, or who might be interested but don’t see themselves in the sports world, and here’s what they had to say:
C: ‘I think Rugby in a way is a vehicle for you to experience other stuff. So from a Women’s Rugby point of view, our ‘inner warrior’ campaign was about releasing your inner warrior, and rugby can help you do that – it’s not about becoming a rugby player, it’s about being empowered, about having freedom, about being part of a community, and rugby can help you do that.’
E: ‘Yeah and I think it probably seems quite scary, all these people running around tackling people, I was a bit apprehensive, but it’s really not daunting at all – everyone I’ve come in contact with has been so friendly and so welcoming. When I first came to Hackney, so many people there, and especially the older girls, were really involved in trying to engage me – and everyone is just so nice. You can definitely find your place wherever. Even if it’s not your particular thing, there’s always going to be something you can do.’
C: ‘There are so many ways I’ve been involved in sports, most people ask ‘are you a coach, are you a player’ and my answer is no, I help other people that want to go out and do that. I help bring down the barriers to make Rugby reflect the society around which it is built. And that’s my job, it’s not to be an expert in rugby, it’s to help develop the people who want to deliver it.’
Reflecting on the role youth organisations can play in helping people find their community and find their place, Claire and Edie said:
C: ‘We have a national youth council at the RFU and it’s about young people’s voices being heard. I can’t imagine what an 18-year-old is going through – or needs, or has the time for – in this very different time to when I was that age. So we have to engage with any person or body or organisation that can give us an understanding of what certain groups need, and why certain groups aren’t engaging, and what barriers there are that we can help bring down to enable young people to be part of what we’re doing.’
E: ‘I mentioned I have the level 1 Referee qualification, but I haven’t heard much more about it and only got that practical experience through my work placement. I wasn’t really aware of it outside of what was given to me – I wasn’t aware of those opportunities. Personally, I would love to learn more about the opportunities that are available.’
We all believe that sports can and should be accessible to everyone, and that youth organisations play a key role in breaking down barriers to sport and physical activity.
Through our sports programmes, London Youth will continue supporting grassroots community and youth organisations to provide physical activity opportunities to all young people who face barriers to accessing sport, and help them find their thing.
– Liona Bravo, Sports Development Officer
Claire Antcliffe’s passion for Rugby started at Loughborough University, and continued with Lichfield RFC, participating in International caps for England in 1997 & 1998, as well as managing England Women’s U19s and the England Women’s Academy from 2000 – 2004. Claire started as a Women’s Rugby Development Officer with the RFUW in 2005, and is now 1 of 6 Match Official Developers for the RFU across the country. Claire is a qualified Course Educator delivering referee and coaching courses and works with Female and Young Match Officials as well as players. Claire’s upcoming webinars include: ER MODev – See it, Be it, Ref it, #See it, Be it, Ref it – The Return, Myth-busting – Supporting Females into Coaching & Refereeing.