Editorial: Rugby's sexist faux pas

For those not raised in a rugby stronghold such as Northland, the rules of the game are as easy to navigate as stormy seas in a bucket.

My hopes of understanding the game were dashed in a bar in Ireland in 2011.

My squeal of excitement during Ireland's Six Nations battle against France was silenced as I realised the player had scored after a forward pass - or not scored, as the case was.

Clueless, in a sea of red, blue and white, I swore I'd never watch another game.

This week, I was disappointed to see that some local rugby folk do not understand the rules of another aspect of the sport. As sporting institutions nationwide, indeed globally, strive to bring more women to the boardroom, our locals let us down. Alanna Clare is the newly appointed Northland Referee Administrator, a fact the Kerikeri Rugby website was proud to announce online.

Just below her appointment notice, which she must have been proud of, was a photo of her in her bikini, which must have made her squirm with embarrassment.

She later told us it was swiped from her Facebook page.

There, in its antiquated glory, was a gleeful caption: "Northland Referees blowing their whistle prematurely in 2013 could spend time in the Sin Bin, if this is anything to go by!"

When the Advocate contacted the Northland Rugby Union, they said the club had already been told to remove the photo. Moments later, the photo was gone.

So, who is this one phantom website administrator? And why hasn't anyone issued us with a statement to correct the sexist message that rugby in Northland had distributed online?

Ironically, her appointment notice stated she was looking forward to "contributing to the development and success of rugby within the greater Northland region".

"You know you're going into a masculine environment and there is a certain ideology. It is changing but it is never going to change overnight," Alanna told us. Among Northland Rugby Union's staff, almost half are women.

She has shown too much tolerance towards the Kerikeri club after the photo of her in a bikini and sexist commentary, when she should have blown her whistle.

Sport and politics are always hand-in-hand, while not necessarily the best bedfellows. Alanna's story reminds me of a local council round I once covered, where a single female councillor remained on the fringe of decision-making. She was afraid to be that lone woman who said "no" - afraid to blow her whistle and call foul.

She didn't last long - then again, they never did!


- Northern Advocate

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