Rugby: 'Less than zero' chance of female being appointed NZ Rugby CEO, says Rachel Froggatt

Tew has been CEO of NZ Rugby since 2007.
Tew has been CEO of NZ Rugby since 2007. Photo credit: Getty

There's a "less than zero" chance of a woman stepping into the role of CEO at NZ Rugby - that's the opinion of Women in Sport Aotearoa CEO Rachel Froggatt.

Froggat believes that the appointment of a female at the top of rugby's governing body
would signal the most impactful commitment to women in sport.

Current CEO Steve Tew may step aside after next year's Rugby World Cup, but Froggatt is emphatic regarding the likelihood of his replacement being a woman.

"Less than zero," Froggatt told Jim Kayes and Andrew Gourdie on Radio LIVE's Sunday Sport. "That's absolutely no shot.

"I just don’t know that the NZ sporting system is ready for that to actually happen at the moment, if you think about the unconscious bias that happens across the sector."

She was quick to offer up one potential candidate in Dr Farah Palmer, a former Black Ferns star, who's now an NZ Rugby board member.

Women in Sport Aotearoa CEO Rachel Froggatt
Women in Sport Aotearoa CEO Rachel Froggatt Photo credit: Getty

"The achievements she's made on the governing board the last few years are just incredible and she's led the bid for the women's Rugby World Cup to come to New Zealand.

"But I just don’t know that we're moving fast enough that, in less than 12 months' time, that kind of thinking will be in place yet."

The most significant barrier to a woman's pathway to such a role lies in the attitude of what Froggatt refers to as the "old guard".

"Since their integrity review a couple years ago, NZ Rugby is making incredible steps forward in terms of the changing representation.

"But until some of that old guard begins to move on and those changes begin to happen behind the scenes, where males with open minds come through, where women are coming through, those changes won't be able to happen at the very, very top end."

The effect of having a woman at the top of NZ Rugby would be immeasurable in terms of the example it sets to other sports, Foggertt added.

"I'd absolutely love to see a woman step into the position of CEO and I'll have Steve up about that next time I see him - how are you actually promoting the interest of women coming through to potentially pitch for this position?

"If rugby could achieve that can you imagine the type of impact that would have on other sports in NZ?"

NZ Rugby chairman Brent Impey disagreed with Froggatt's assessment, pointing to the fact that 30 of the 140 staff at NZ Rugby were female and highlighting deputy CEO Nicki Nicol as a prime example that opportunities existed for females at the highest level.

In fact, subsequent information suggests those figures are 68 of 145 staff - 47 percent.

Impey said Nicol stepped in as acting CEO on the frequent occasions that Tew was tending to business overseas.

"I don't think there is any basis for that comment, whatsoever," Impey told Sunday Sport.

"We have actively gone to encourage more women into our sport. Reality is that close to 20 percent of our playing numbers are women and that's the biggest area of growth in our game.

"If you look at other roles, we have Cate Sexton as the head of women's rugby and we're looking to develop women referees, women coaches, right through the game." 

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