By Alex Gibbings
As England’s men lost out in the recent Rugby League World Cup final, their female equivalent almost emulated them by reaching the semi-final of their own tournament.
Yet this went largely unnoticed as the England women’s side had little coverage going into the tournament, which for the first time was held at the same time as the men’s World Cup.
The women’s final was also played as a double-header, with the men’s final being played straight after, with hosts Australia winning both.
However, the English women were not paid for their endeavours Down Under, nor are they paid when playing in their domestic leagues.
Bradford Bulls Ladies were league and cup double winners in the season leading up to the tournament, but Bulls official Luke Hopkins was left saddened by the lack of funding in the women’s game.
“The support the women have is remarkable, and they are a great asset to the club, but they don’t get paid for what they do, they’ve really worked hard this year, they don’t have to play for Bradford or England, there isn’t enough funding which is sad,” said Hopkins, the media manager at Odsal.
“When they get picked for the World Cup, they spend time out of their working lives, so they miss pay and they sacrifice quite a lot, they deserve everything they get.
“We want to boost the women’s game, and people look up to them, they put in so much effort to go from their full-time jobs then train for free, so we want to give that back now.”
It isn’t just in rugby league where funding is in short supply, with recent news in women’s football causing worry in England. The FA recently announced plans for the Women’s Super League (WSL) to go fully professional, starting in 2018, meaning teams will be placed in the top tier judging by their financial backing, rather than on their own merit.
This has seen clubs in WSL 2 immediately announce that they are incapable of meeting the requirements for the new format, with Doncaster Belles and Sunderland amongst the clubs that have said they will be unable to apply for the new league.
Watford are dropping out of the WSL set-up altogether, whilst last season saw Notts County fold, and now these new plans from the FA leave many clubs facing an uncertain future.
There is now a real concern that the future of women’s football in England is in jeopardy. Deputy editor of gal-dem magazine, Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, fears the worst for the beautiful game.
“It’s sad and it’s disappointing that women’s teams are having to fight for funding,” Brinkhurst-Cuff said.
“It’s clear that we enjoy, and are just as capable of playing good football as men’s teams, and I hope that the FA can step in to resolve the situation.”