The Rugby Football Union announced a £10M ($13.2M) Action Plan for the women and girls' game "designed to attract a further 100,000 players to the game over the next four years," according to Mick Cleary of the London TELEGRAPH. The RFU intends to set up 350 more active women's teams by '21. The aim of the project is "to get more women playing more often." There has been a "significant upturn" in the numbers playing the game over the last four years. Figures show that more than 10,000 women and girls have been exposed to contact rugby since '14. There are currently 512 women and girls' teams in England and 27,500 existing players. The aim is to "introduce the sport to some 100,000 females with a view to having a long-term uptake of about 25% of them, almost doubling the current figure." RFU Rugby Development Dir Steve Grainger said, "We have called it an Action Plan rather than a strategy as we want to make it happen" (TELEGRAPH, 11/13).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
Sources said that European Union antitrust regulators are "set to back speed skaters who want to compete in new money-spinning events outside the control of the sport's governing body," according to Foo Yun Chee of REUTERS. The European Commission’s move "could impact other sports and become as important a milestone" as the landmark '95 court ruling involving Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman, which "paved the way for the free movement of players in the EU." The ruling could set a precedent that would make it easier for unofficial and "breakaway" events and competitions to be set up without the approval of a sport's governing body. Sources said that the EC ruling, which is expected by the end of November or early December, is "likely to order" the Int'l Skating Union to amend its system of penalties, which include lifetime bans for competing in unauthorized events. The ISU "found itself in the EU competition enforcer's crosshairs" two years ago after Dutch Olympic speed skaters Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt raised grievances after being "put off competing in lucrative Ice Derby events" run by a South Korean company by threats of a lifetime ban. Both the EU’s competition enforcer and the ISU, which has previously said such an approach "could destroy the Olympic values underpinning sport," declined to comment on the matter (REUTERS, 11/14).
Spanish Basketball Players' Association (ABP) President Alfonso Reyes said of the scheduling conflict between FIBA and the EuroLeague, "The majority of EuroLeague players are going to decide to play for their clubs because they have contracts," according to Ricardo González of AS. He said, "Our advice is that players ask their clubs in writing what they have to do, to put this responsibility on the clubs. ... They want the players to carry the weight of the decision when the players did not participate in the creation of the schedule. The Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB) has said that it will not sanction the players, but we would like for the Spanish Superior Sports Council to weigh in" (AS, 11/13). In Madrid, Sergio Fernández reported La Liga President Javier Tebas spoke on Tuesday about "the latest in football, politics and also basketball," with the conflict between FIBA and the EuroLeague "the principal topic." He said, "What is happening is the consequence of the lack of intervention or the neglect of recent years, when the EuroLeague was created. The national basketball industry is the Spanish Basketball League (ACB). The FEB has to concern itself with the national team" (MARCA, 11/14).
Georgia national rugby team coach Milton Haig "hopes a spot in a revamped Six Nations is the next step for his adopted nation," according to Michael Pearlman of the BBC. A few years ago, that "might have seemed a fanciful suggestion," but Georgia, in 12th, is "now a place ahead of Italy in the World Rugby rankings." Haig said, "The Six Nations is what we need. We have talked about it for three years, it is what we need to improve our game. But also geographically, it is the place we naturally fit. So we are just hoping to get that opportunity one day and I know the new CEO of the RFU [Steve Brown] has said they want to be open-minded which is absolutely fantastic." Haig believes Georgia is "going the right way" to securing a place in the competition. He said, "I am not sure on the logistics, it depends on the six partners already involved, but you could imagine it would be part of an expansion to the Six Nations, rather than promotion and relegation" (BBC, 11/14).
Commonwealth Games gymnastics champion Dan Keatings said that he experienced a culture of "bullying and manipulation" throughout his time as a British gymnast. Keatings, 27, described retiring in January as a "relief." British Gymnastics denied claims by a group of coaches that "appalling leadership" within the governing body led to a "culture of fear." Keatings: "The fear is very real" (BBC, 11/13).
The Int'l Rugby Players Association entered an agreement with World Rugby that gives professional rugby union players a "stronger voice in the game" and sees the organization relocate to Dublin to "work closely with rugby’s governing body." The MOU covers a four-year agreement running from '17-20 and "ensures players will be represented and consulted on key issues and decisions affecting the professional players and the future of the game" (RUNNING RUGBY, 11/14).
National Trainers' Federation CEO Rupert Arnold said that the principle of "strict liability which underpins racing should allow for exceptional circumstances where a trainer can demonstrate that he or she had done everything in their power to ensure illegal substances did not find their way into a horse’s system." In such cases, a trainer should not be penalized. Arnold: "They do feel exposed and extremely vulnerable at the moment about being penalized, with a substance appearing where nobody can trace where it came from" (LONDON TIMES, 11/14).