In Britain, we tend to accept that asking someone for money is among the most uncomfortable things possible. Now, imagine you’re a semi-professional rugby player. Exponentially more awkward?
Well, this was the situation that Alisha Butchers found herself in, when she had to set up a GoFundMe page to pay for a private operation, to fix ankle ligament damage that she sustained in training.
Bristol Bears Women, for whom Butchers plays, compete in England’s top female rugby league – the Premier 15s, yet her club contract did not include a full package of medical insurance. Butchers knew this, so had taken out her own personal policy, but was unaware that this was void as she receives payments as a semi-professional rugby player.
Fortunately for Butchers, within the space of about six hours, she had raised more than her target of £4,995, but, fearing her fellow players are equally unaware of their situation, she decided to share her story.
Granted, Bristol Bears Women did contribute towards Butchers’ surgery in the end, which was effectively a donation, as they were not contractually obliged to help her. However, for many, me included, the fact that Bristol Bears men’s team is owned by billionaire Stephen Lansdown (who is also the majority shareholder of Bristol City Football Club) and boast England’s Kyle Sinckler among their ranks, means that Butchers’ campaign should not have been necessary in the first place.
If Bristol Bears Women really do have a ‘close affinity’ to Pat Lam’s men’s team, as they claim on their website, then surely Lansdown could have stumped up the £4,995 himself, which is effectively pocket change to an individual like him.
Either way, Butchers’ campaign has highlighted the gap in medical insurance between semi-professional and professional sport, as well as the need for increased education for people who play in competitions such as the Premier 15s.
Butchers has received support in her call for action by the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA), but the RPA has stated that it should be the Premier 15s clubs and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) providing this education, for it lacks the funding to do so.