Melville: Premier 15s not about money

Rugby Football Union (RFU) director of professional rugby Nigel Melville has stated that the new women’s domestic competition is not a commercial venture.

The Tyrrells Premier 15s — which begins on Sept. 16 with 10 clubs competing for the inaugural title in a league format — was made possible via a £2.4 million investment from the RFU.

However, Melville has revealed that the governing body’s input was not a financial investment, but instead one for the long-term growth of the domestic women’s game.

Speaking to ESPN, Melville said: “It’s not about getting money back, it’s about growing the game and making us competitive on the international stage and taking the game forward as a whole.

“We invest quite heavily in all of our programs so why wouldn’t we in the women’s 15s, just as we do with the 7s, and as we do with the men’s, it’s about keeping things moving.

“Our strategic goal are to double the number of women playing the game in the next four years so we need to invest. We are at about 26,000 at the moment but we want to get to 50,000.

“It brings more participation at every level and we think rugby is good for you so let’s get it out there, let’s get your players playing. But we also want our top players to then come back and get involved in the game at local clubs and help grow the game, be a coach, be a referee and get the next generation coming through, it doesn’t have to be all about the elite, our objection is to fill the pathway.”

When asked whether the plan was to go fully professional in the long-term, Melville said: “Eventually [smiling] that would be good, wouldn’t it?

“Professional sport is about broadcast figures, as in money, it’s about sponsorship and gate money and those are the revenues that drive professional sport. If it brings in good crowds, if it’s going to bring in broadcast sponsors and money then the money is going to go to the clubs and going into growing the sport.

“We’re hopeful but you’ve got to start somewhere so we’re going to start on the 16th September and see if we can build from there.”

The RFU will stream at least five matches from the new women’s domestic competition this season as part of the governing body’s strategy to grow the women’s game.

Earlier, England captain Sarah Hunter announced her new role as player-assistant coach at Loughborough Lightning. She joins from Bristol Ladies.