• This week the RFU is celebrating Women’s Sport Week
  • Deborah Griffin OBE has been involved in women’s rugby since the 1970s
  • Griffin is the women and girls’ representative on the RFU Council

If there is one person who knows women’s and girls’ rugby more than most, it is Deborah Griffin OBE. 

Since taking up the game at University in the 1970s, Griffin has gone on to become one of the most influential figures in the sport and was awarded an OBE in 2012 for services to women’s rugby having been one of the founders of the Women’s RFU in 1983 as well as having organised the first Women’s World Cup in 1991.

At a time when Women’s Sport Week is being celebrated across the country, Griffin says she is proud of how far the sport has developed and excited by what is to come.


“Rugby is like physical chess and I loved that,” Griffin’s reasons for taking up the sport are similar to most but she soon became motivated to do more than just play.

“At that time we wanted to put some structure in place, we wanted to try and help grow the game. “

And so she did just that, helping set up the Women’s RFU in 1983 which was fully integrated into the RFU in 2012.

“When I look back at those early years, including helping to organise the first World Cup, I remember it being a lot of hard work but it was hugely successful and it was a real marker in the sand for the women’s game.”

Young Leaders

Reflecting on the past few decades, Griffin says she is impressed by how far the game has come.

“In 1991 we had about 70 clubs in England and now we have over 300. We have girls playing in schools and clubs at age group levels and at the elite level we have an inspiring team in the Red Roses.”

Perhaps most importantly though, says Griffin, is the growing presence of young female leaders on the administration side of the game.

“There has been a lot of momentum in that area, the increased representation at governance level has been a major step forward.”

Griffin now believes it is up to the next generation of young leaders to take the game forward.

“Developing female leaders is extremely important. When you have people like Kay Marks, chair of national youth council coming through it’s important you help them develop.

“It is up to the next generation of female leaders to break down more barriers and expand our sport beyond its traditional areas.”

The next focus for Griffin is to promote the presence of women’s and girls’ rugby at all levels of the sport.

“We are really focusing our efforts now on promoting coaching, refereeing, volunteering because we want to encourage more women to get involved in their clubs.

“I look ahead with a lot of excitement about where the women’s game is going.”