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27 November 2017

World Rugby has announced reform of its Council – its highest decision-making body – with an ambition of at least one-third women's representation from next year. The number of people who may sit on Council may increase from 32 to 49 on the condition that the 17 new representatives are to be women.

The amendment will give the 11 unions and six regional associations, who currently have an additional vote but no additional representative, the right to send an additional representative to Council subject to that person being female. Thus, the existing voting rights will remain unchanged.

Approval to the proposal is the first significant step to accelerate women’s role in rugby on and off the field of play and bring gender-balance to the highest levels of its governance.

The 2017-25 Women’s Plan – also ratified by Council in London last week – shows World Rugby is committed to being a global leader in sport, where women have equal opportunities in all areas, are integrated in strategy, plans and structures and make highly valued contributions to participation, performance, leadership and investment in the global game.

Both the women’s plan and the governance reform proposal were developed under the guidance of the Women’s Advisory Committee, which itself was established following World Rugby’s previous reform of its governance structures in 2015.

“This is a major milestone in the progression and growth of World Rugby and the global game," said Bill Beaumont. "The reform is historic, reflective of our ambitions and long overdue. If we are to promote and nurture the growth of women in rugby then change must be led from the top.

“I would like to thank my Council colleagues for their full commitment to this important reform and I look forward to welcoming their new representatives from rugby and beyond so that together we can work to further rugby worldwide. It is clearly a fantastic start and opens the door to even greater female representation in Council and across rugby in the future.”

Driven by a record-breaking Women’s Rugby World Cup, rugby’s highly successful inclusion in the Rio 2016 Olympic Programme and the thriving HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, women’s rugby is experiencing unprecedented growth with participation levels at an all-time high. Latest figures show more than 2.4 million women and girls are playing rugby at all levels, accounting for more than a quarter (26 per cent) of players globally, an increase in player numbers of 60 per cent since 2013.

The women’s plan will include a review of the international competition calendar, leadership development initiatives, such as leadership development scholarships and a sport development grant, the creation of a good governance resource for regions and unions, and the development of a strategy for creating new and diversified investment streams.

Making history, Ada Milby, secretary general of the Philippine Rugby Football Union, has become the first woman appointed to Council under the reform, having been elected by Asia Rugby at the weekend.