Women’s Rugby

Equality for women on and off the field at Dubai Sevens

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 9:51pm

Custom-built changing rooms plus exclusive grass pitches to train on were twin reasons why Hong Kong was overlooked and Dubai will host the inaugural event in the IRB Women's Sevens Series this weekend.

While the men turn out in the second leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series, the fairer sex, too, will have their day in the sun, with the International Rugby Board using the high-profile Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens as the only tournament in the series to co-host both competitions.

A total of 12 women's teams and 16 men's teams will make up for a lot of rugby bodies in this sun-baked city - whose governing body the United Arab Emirates Rugby Association was yesterday celebrating full IRB member status - but that is not all as clubs from around the world gather for a social jamboree.

This is on par with rugby week in the run-up to the Hong Kong Sevens, yet Dubai is able to absorb all these numbers and still give the women the best facilities available.

"The women want the same facilities as the men, and they are getting it here," said Beth Coalter, IRB Sevens manager. "Dubai has the facilities which Hong Kong does not have."

The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, too, had wanted to host one of the four legs of the women's series, but those overtures were denied. The other three legs of the women's series will be played in the US (Houston), China (Guangzhou, the week after the Hong Kong Sevens) and the Netherlands (Amsterdam).

"Dubai has got the financial support, they got six training pitches plus the main pitch, and even built individual changing rooms for the women away from all the social rugby, so the women have their own space," Coalter said. "They also have their own pitch to warm-up on.

"Hong Kong, unfortunately couldn't provide this level playing field - the same facilities given to the men - because there is so much going on. Hong Kong does not have sufficient pitches because of all the social events happening. And with 28 [men's] teams turning up this time it would not have been fair on the women to run their tournament side-by-side with the men," Coalter added.

The IRB has plans to increase the women's series from four to six in 2014 and Coalter hinted that Hong Kong might get another chance if it could sort out the infrastructural issues.