The Red Roses are set to make history against France at Twickenham on Saturday while there is a call for the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to guarantee the financial rewards available in the women’s game match its growing value to the organisation.
England go head-to-head with France at home in their Six Nations Grand Slam decider and more than 53,000 tickets have already been sold.
New crowd attendance record
That figure surpasses the previous crowd attendance record for women’s rugby which was set at last year’s World Cup final between New Zealand and England at Eden Park in Auckland when a crowd of 42,579 spectators attended.
While doing that, they are outperforming – by a considerable margin – the men’s game in research undertaken to find its ‘net promoter score’ – to what extent spectators at matches would recommend the experience to others.
Rugby Players’ Association general secretary Christian Day is currently holding talks with the RFU over a new contract for women as their existing deals will expire this summer.
Day feels England’s women are currently a crucial asset to the RFU and are becoming vital to the sport’s prosperity.
“To me, when you look at how rugby is going to grow, you look at the women’s game,” he said.
“I don’t think anyone would have thought there would be 60,000 at Twickenham on Saturday and I wonder how many of those have been to an England game before.
“It’s a whole new market, a new demographic of fans, supporters and people who watch.
“Viewing figures on the BBC are all over one million, which is what the recent Saracens v Harlequins match did on ITV, so very similar numbers.
“The women’s game offers a huge opportunity for growth and who’s to say that there can’t be double-headers at Exeter, for example?
“That explains some of the investment but also why we need people to get behind this concept of women’s rugby being serious.
🌹 Former captain Gill Burns with an amazing speech to the Red Roses.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) April 28, 2023
“We’re going through contracting now and we want a fair representation of what their value to the RFU is. I think it’s rising.
“I think they’re becoming a big part of the RFU brand and we know that it’s the players who generate the vast majority of money in rugby.”
Day is adamant that the Red Roses have emerged as wonderful ambassadors for rugby, saying that they “crave the support they’ve never had before” whereas for men “it’s a harder sell because they’ve always had it”.
A norm for every England encounter is the players staying long after the final whistle to interact with supporters, taking selfies and signing autographs.
“Huge credit goes to the RFU as well as the players for the ticket sales for Saturday. They’ve invested and that crowd hasn’t happened by itself,” added Day.
“I’ve used the tube countless times and all I can see is Zoe Aldcroft staring back at me selling tickets for Saturday.
“The girls may realise on Saturday that they can’t have 60,000 selfies but they’ll still try to get around the pitch to engage with everyone.
“I’ve been to games with my daughter and she’s had a selfie with every player. Huge credit goes to them.”
Unique selling point
England star Emily Scarratt, who will miss the clash with France due to neck and ankle injuries, believes the women’s game has its own unique selling point.
“Generally there isn’t as much kicking in it and there’s a bit more ball in play time,” she said.
“We try to find the edges and the width and there’s a bit more freedom in the play, which is a fantastic reason to come and watch it. People who come to the games generally really enjoy what they see.”