Rugby Union: Oldest profession allowed no role in one of the newest

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The Independent Online
TRADITIONALISTS always suspected that professionalism would change the heart and soul of rugby union. Now a group of Australian women have provoked a row over the role of alcohol and sex in a game whose amateur image was one of beer-swilling players rendering dirty songs in the bar.

A women's team from Perth, Western Australia, have accused the Australian Rugby Union of hypocrisy and double standards for preventing them from accepting sponsorship from a brothel to finance a trip to play in the forthcoming national women's championships in Darwin.

The men of the eastern-based ARU felt justified in their decision to scupper the Western Amazons' initiative because prostitution is illegal in Western Australia. That has not stopped Perth having some of Australia's more flamboyant brothels, one of which came up with A$10,000 (pounds 3,700) for the Amazons.

"That is outside the game's code of conduct," said Terry Wilkinson, the executive director of the Western Australian Rugby Union and a member of the ARU. "They've gone too far. We didn't feel it appropriate for a representative team, as brothels are not legal."

The Amazons have not taken the ban lying down. Sue Roberts, their coach, hit back at the ARU, saying: "They're hypocrites. The Western Australian Rugby Union is sponsored by a brewery. Sport should be apolitical and amoral. We believe alcohol has brought more misery, abuse, accidents and health problems to women's and children's lives than a brothel ever has."

Perhaps, the men in authority were already feeling threatened because of the team's previous choice of sponsors. Last year the Amazons had the backing of a Perth scaffolding company and played in shorts sporting the slogan "Instant Erections".