2020-21 All Ireland League Women Club Rugby Women Railway Union RFC

Club Women: Railway Union continue to move women’s rugby forward.

Railway Union announced today that they will be charging admission for their women’s games this season and they are offering an AIL Supporters Club Membership.

We caught up with Railway President Melissa Slevin to find out their thinking behind it.

As you know, we’ve always pushed on equality for women’s rugby and this aligns us with the men’s AIL. We’ll be charging €10 for adults, €5 for students and U18s will be free to all Energia Community Series, Club 7s and AIL games this season.

The Women’s AIL is unique and we often don’t appreciate it as much as we should. Unlike the Men’s AIL, it regularly has international 15s and 7s players playing in it. We believe watching elite female players playing performance rugby in the highest league in Ireland is a product is worth paying for.

For regular AIL supporters, we are offering an AIL Supporters Club Membership for €120 for the season, for which they get free entry to all women’s AIL games in Ireland, as well as other benefits.

In addition, it allows the club’s alumni to support our women’s program.

This is something men’s rugby does fantastically well but is yet to happen on women’s rugby. Many of our alumni have come through our program, had great experiences with us, achieved great things and wonderful memories, and they want a way to ‘pay it back’ to the next generation.

Some of these aren’t in Dublin or even Ireland anymore, but they’ll get their annual membership card and their leisure item and they’ll know their contribution is keeping our program healthy and moving forward.

We regularly have people coming to us saying they love what we are doing on women’s sport and how we are advancing equality and that they want to support us. This is the way they can do that.

We’re piloting this with Wicklow and Suttonians this season and they’ll have their own AIL Supporter’s Club, with the other AIL clubs coming on board next season.

We want to get to the stage where we have an active alumni membership across all the clubs and we can do a reunion of, say, Railway and Belvo retired players at a pre-match lunch before the current crop’s AIL fixture.

We are also looking ahead a little on Covid and when we might get supporters back and under what conditions that might be. All membership cards will have barcodes, which will be scanned to record attendance at games for contact tracing purposes. Similarly, entrance fees for non-members will be collected by card/Apple Pay on the gate and this will allow us to do contract tracing too. The practicalities and the safety element were an important part of our thinking too.

We, at The Front Row Union, think this is a move in the right direction for women’s clubs in Ireland. It’s certainly a much more positive and proactive step than all the virtue signaling which seems to be endemic around the women’s game.

This is not a battle against the men’s game but an opportunity for the women’s game to try and catch up. Established men’s clubs have had decades and decades of a head start on the women’s game to build support and they have been able to develop a core of invested supporters on whom every club relies. This is a vital first step for women to start to realistically build for a future and if done correctly it can be the basis of a vital income stream for all teams at a club.

Next time you think about taking the easy option and reach for the latest hashtag to show your support for the women’s game why not reach for your back pocket and sign up as a supporting member of your local women’s club. The only people making money out of social media campaigns are social media companies. No club can pay the bills with likes and retweets!

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