Sale Sharks’ Northern Rugby Matters campaign has raised thousands of pounds in support of its women’s team, with the club also hosted its first-ever dedicated International Women’s Day fixture last weekend.

 

The initiative – launched in February alongside amateur clubs across the north – follows the news that Sale Sharks Women have been offered a conditional place to compete in next season’s Premier 15s, the top division of women’s rugby in England.

Among the conditions outlined is a requirement for the women’s team to be financially sustainable, independent of owner funding.

This means that, despite the long-standing and ongoing investment of the club’s owners, who remain wholly committed and will continue to provide significant financial support, there is still work to do in order to ensure the women’s game in the north is supported and properly funded going forward.

A big part of that is ensuring that Sale Sharks Women becomes a competitive and sustainable operation going into the 2023/24 season and beyond.

As such, the club announced the start of a crowdfunding campaign, designed to support the growth of the women’s team and the wider game in the north, giving supporters, local businesses and the wider community a chance to be involved with the only northern team competing at the elite level of domestic women’s rugby.

To provide a legacy for the campaign beyond its end date, the names of those who donate will feature on a permanent fans’ wall of fame at Sharks’ Carrington Training Centre, where both the men’s and women’s team are based.

The announcement – launched via an open letter from Women’s Performance Coach, Rachel Taylor and Director of Rugby, Alex Sanderson – marked the beginning of a series of promotional activities, with the highly anticipated upcoming men’s clash between Sharks and Saracens also becoming the club’s first-ever dedicated International Women’s Day fixture.

On the day, Sale beat the league leaders in front of a season-high crowd, with over 700,000 people also tuning in from home. Players warmed up in special warm-up t-shirts, which featured the names of their women’s team counterparts on the reverse, and fans also bought t-shirts of their own to raise funds, with the total raised now standing at £12,000.

 

Sharks’ Co-Owner, Michelle Orange, said: “We’re really excited about the future of both our women’s team as well as women’s rugby in the north, and our latest campaign is an extension of our ongoing commitment to the women’s game.

“We’re also proud to be an inclusive and welcoming club, and to have the full support of our men’s team as part of such an important fixture shows we are all united behind the cause.

“Through our community programmes including Mission Sharks Primary and Girls Tackle Rugby, as well as the Women’s Centre of Excellence, we want to provide opportunities for women and girls across the region to play rugby. 

“It’s crucial that we provide a platform for our women to compete and succeed, so we hope the entire region gets right behind this initiative and supports us via the fundraiser.”

Supporters are encouraged to get involved in the club’s new campaign by posting on social media using the hashtag #NorthernRugbyMatters.