Editorial: Not a good look, indeed

In his laid-back way former rugby sevens star Eric Rush put it perfectly.

"Not a good look" was his assessment of Waikato Rugby Union's refusal to fully fund its women's sevens representatives at the national competition in Queenstown this weekend.

The union's miserly insistence that women players pay back a $300 cost shortfall after the tournament, while the men's team is fully paid for, was always going to be look bad.

No wonder the union warned the players not to talk to the media over the issue.

To a degree one can understand WRU boss Graham Bowen's argument that it wasn't budgeted for presumably because there was no guarantee the team would qualify.

But could not the union have budgeted for it in case they did?

After all, Rugby Sevens is a serious business and will make its debut as an Olympic Sport in Rio in 2016.

International rugby authorities have made plenty of noises about promoting the women's game around the world.

And when the women's team did qualify, was it that impossible to find a few more thousand dollars through some creative accounting? Or find a sponsor? One has some sympathy for Mr Bowen's own position, given his personal contribution of $1500 for the team.

That does suggest the union's finances are stretched.

Some could also remind us that it wasn't that long ago that rugby players were all amateurs. Women's rugby is very much an emerging sport and plenty of other sportspeople in this category have to pay their own way.

But as soon as you get a situation in which a rugby union's men's team is fully paid for and a women's team is not, you've got problems.

It is surprising that no-one at the union saw that one coming.

And a gag order issued to players by the WRU makes things worse.

That always sends the public a simple message: We have something to hide.

What is also disappointing is that at the time of writing, despite the publicity, the union doesn't appear to have made any effort to address the situation.

One hopes that Waikato Rugby Union will sort out the inequity and let the players concentrate on winning their games.

Waikato Times