Women’s 6N: “It’s incumbent on us to find the money to allow the women’s game to grow”, says John McGuigan

Gary Heatly

John McGuigan, the Chair of Scottish Rugby Limited, says the governing body “need to continue to invest” in the ever-growing women’s game and says “my commitment to the women’s game is we need to find the money to do it”.

McGuigan was at the recent national team Guinness Women’s Six Nations match with France when a record home tournament crowd of 5,601 was at Hive Stadium.

That attendance will be beaten this coming Saturday when England come to town and seven recent Test wins on the spin, professional contracts, young players like Alex Stewart breaking through with Scotland, the rise of the Celtic Challenge and the growth in girls taking up the game has left women’s rugby in this country in a decent place.

Always more can be done though and when the new chief executive and the new performance director come into post in the coming months at Scottish Rugby the women’s game will be a key part of their remits.

“It’s incumbent on us to find the money to allow the women’s game to grow,” McGuigan said.

“We certainly should not follow the path of the men’s game – that has developed over a long period – we should look at the women’s game as a unique product in its own right and how best to nurture that.

“I think we’ve made strides in the Scottish women’s game, but nobody else is standing still. We’re not going to go to Italy or Ireland this year and think that will be easy.

“The key for us in the short-term is how we excite more sponsorship into the women’s game. You can argue that the women’s game is more attractive to sponsors than the men’s game to some degree in terms of the values and what it represents.

“We need to continue to invest. My commitment to the women’s game is we need to find the money to do it. The task that I have – and the board and the chief executive – will be finding the sponsorship for a period of time because the crowds are not going to offset the costs and we want to ensure we make the level of investment that we should.”

McGuigan is keen to help make more of the Scotland’s national team players household names.

“The thing I really enjoyed [at the France game] was the players didn’t go into the changing room for about an hour afterwards because they were standing talking to the crowds and signing autographs,” he said.

“I think we could do a lot more in terms of the story of ‘How did I get here?’ We’ve started to do that with the men’s game through Netflix and things and we’ve got a bigger opportunity to bring that to life on the women’s side much quicker.

“We need to start to explore who the people are that you see on the pitch on a day-to-day basis and create personalities who can connect with the audience in a way that the men’s game has taken a very long time to identify as important.

“And how do we cater for a different type of supporter? Rather than thinking [in the men’s game] ‘my supporter used to play in the amateur game’, in the women’s game that’s probably not the case. So, who is your supporter? Maybe it’s the first time they’ve come to a rugby match, so how do you present it to them?

“We’re starting from a different place. We’ve learned a lot from the men’s game: how do you take the best of that but then align it to how you want the women’s game to evolve.”

At the minute a lot of the Scotland squad’s professional players play their rugby in England.

In the long-term, Scottish Rugby want to grow the Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors’ women’s brands and McGuigan added:  “We want more of the [national] team to be here and that’s where the Edinburgh and Glasgow teams are great.”

Thanks to Scottish Rugby/SNS for the main image of Alex Stewart with supporters and for the John McGuigan image

During the Guinness Women’s Six Nations period through to the end of April, GH Media will be covering all aspects of women’s rugby in Scotland via reports, features and interviews…

Thanks to those who have made this possible and if any companies/individuals are keen to support this work too, please email gary@gh-media.co.uk