Women’s Rugby in Jordan Passion, high risks, and no compensation

shutterstock rugby
(Photo: Shutterstock)
“I have always been a rugby fan. … And thanks to the encouragement of my brothers, I joined the first women’s team, the Citadel club in 2018, when I was just 12 years old,” said Zain Abzakh.اضافة اعلان

Abzakh’s rugby journey has not been smooth recently. She suffered a severe shoulder injury during a match this year, which kept her away from the game for a month. “I fell after receiving a blow from another player. I felt severe pain in my shoulder and, at the time, I received no medical assistance except for an ice bag.”

Amanda, 31. (Photos: ARIJ)

“Later on, I saw a specialist — that my family paid for,” she said. “Female rugby players are not covered by health insurance. My family is still paying for my physiotherapy sessions for my shoulder, which has not completely healed.”

Supervisors and other players, much like Abzakh, have echoed that women’s rugby clubs suffer from poor infrastructure and a lack of financial support from the Jordan Rugby Committee and the Jordan Olympic Committee.

Taz, 27.

There are three rugby clubs in the Kingdom: Citadel, Nomads, and Sosruka, and they all have men’s and women’s teams.

According to the Jordanian Rugby Committee, there are around 150 female rugby players in the Kingdom. 

Hala Al-Omar, 34, a rugby player with the Nomads, said: “For five years, we have been experiencing the same issues. There is no improvement in the status of the clubs.”

Lynnthy, 18.

“When we have a training session, we go to the location at our own expense, which could be quite the distance. The clubs also do not have the financial ability to secure transportation,” she said. “Most of the players do not have jobs.”

In the 2019 East Asian Championship, she said, “we had to wear the boys’ uniforms because we did not have our own. And that was the only time we participated in a tournament.”

Lack of support for local clubs

Citadel Coach Freih Kawar confirmed the difficulties rugby clubs face: “I train for free. Coaches and referees work for free, and we do not have health insurance, either.”

Karma, 26.

“Rugby fields must be made of natural grass and be completely flat, without bumps. But such fields are not available in Jordan, which sometimes results in severe injuries among female players.”

Kawar also questioned funding, “the Jordan Rugby Committee receives around JD35,000 annually from the Olympic Committee, but they only help the club with JD1,000 throughout the year.”

Tatiana, 21.

“The amount is meant to be used to prepare local tournaments held twice a year. It should also be used to find fields suitable for training. Training sessions that last an hour and a half cost between JD45 and JD75, and we usually train three times a week.”

The club needs around JD10,000 annually to cover operational costs, Kawar said. “This year, the club did not even receive the JD1,000 (from the rugby committee).”

Anbartu, 18.

Executive director of the Jordan Rugby Committee, Aziz Zakaria, said that “all clubs should reconsider their financial status and devise solutions to generate revenues by attracting partnerships and sponsorships from the private sector to support their various sports activities.”

“Material and moral support for rugby clubs is a priority for the committee,” he said, but he also acknowledged the insignificance of the financial support provided by the committee. “The poor financial resources of the Jordan Rugby Committee limit the financial support it can offer clubs in general. The Jordan Olympic Committee gives us JD35,000 annually, and this is usually spread over all the committee’s activities and management.”

Rand, 18. 

Local tournaments and international trips cost around JD15,000, according to Zakaria.

“The committee supports local clubs by paying for their grass field reservations at the University of Petra throughout the year,” he said, adding that this is the only grass field that has accommodated rugby in Jordan.

Zain, 16.

“The committee also provides periodic training and educational workshops for referees, coaches, and players in cooperation with the Asian and World Rugby Federations,” he said.

Sosruka club director, Ahmad Hamouqa, formed an 11-player rugby team in 2018, despite the difficulties.

 “It was hard to find women with the required athletic aptitude to join (the team),” he said. “The game itself was not practiced widely or popularly known as a game played by women in Jordan.”

Nujoud, 25.

The first participation by Jordanian women abroad was when they participated in the Asian Rugby Sevens Series Championship held in Qatar in 2019, said Hamouqa. “Our participation was modest because this is a new sport in Jordan, but it was still a good first experience.”

Financially, Hamouqa said, “the club needs between JD5,000 to JD6,000 annually to reserve fields and JD2,000 or more to purchase uniforms for female players.”

“The JD1,000 allocated by the Jordan Rugby Committee to the club annually cannot be relied upon,” he added.

Rugby team players pay a monthly subscription fee of JD10, according to Hamouqa.

Nomads club player Mohammad Al-Tamimi stressed that rugby is developing slowly due to “the weak support provided by the Jordan Rugby Committee”.

He said that if more “reasonable” support were provided, “then we would be able to provide health insurance to female players, and we would have more of them playing.”

Health insurance coverage
“Health insurance is a matter of concern for us all,” said Jordan Rugby Committee executive director Zakaria in response to clubs’ demands to extend health insurance coverage to female players.

“We know clubs are facing financial challenges that prevent them from providing all their players with health insurance coverage. But, on the other hand, we provide health insurance to male and female players on the national teams in cooperation with the Jordan Olympic Committee,” he added.

He said that negotiations have been underway with insurance companies, but they have offered expensive plans that “we could not afford”. 

“This is a global problem that faces all athletes who play high-contact sports. However, thanks to the efforts of the Asian Rugby Federation, an agreement was recently signed with the United Fidelity Insurance Company based in the UAE to provide health insurance at competitive prices of up to JD70 per person annually, and all the relevant information has been shared with local clubs,” he said.

Zaid Al-Sarayrah, the official spokesperson for the Jordan Olympic Committee, emphasized the local Olympic committee’s support for rugby in many ways, including “financial, media, marketing, and logistical aspects.”

He also added: “The committee did not receive any complaints from the players.”

The Jordanian Rugby Committee is the official entity responsible for rugby management in the Kingdom, as it falls under the umbrella of the Jordan Olympic Committee. It oversees the administration and development of the sport, including the organization of local and foreign tournaments.

The committee also develops internationally competitive national teams and is an official member of the Asian Rugby, World Rugby, and the Arab Rugby Federation.

This story was published in collaboration with ARIJ.

Read more Sports
Jordan News