Behind The Scenes | Kieran Crombie
The rise of women’s sport this year has sparked new thinking around how governing bodies and clubs should take forward their offering to women’s teams and players.
England’s Lionesses delivered Euro glory at a packed Wembley Stadium and the Red Roses reached the Rugby World Cup final in New Zealand. Since then, the Women’s Super League attendances have rocketed with an average attendance of 6,000 per game this season.
The North London derby between Arsenal and Spurs attracted a gate of 47,367 at the Emirates Stadium and year on year attendances are up 200%. Attention has been grabbed, fans have voted with their feet and money is beginning to flow into women’s sport.
Not surprisingly Saracens has recognised and responded to the trend and the man in charge of orchestrating the advance of women’s sport at the club is Kieran Crombie. In June this year he moved across from running the Saracens Foundation to become managing director of women’s sport at the club.
His remit is to grow both rugby and netball at the club and ensure the Saracens Women’s rugby team and the Mavericks netball side are fully integrated into the overall performance strategy and are moving towards long-term sustainability.
“We are investing more in women’s sport than ever before and have committed to spending £3m in women’s rugby over the next 10 years. The goal over the next decade is to make both sports fully sustainable”, said Crombie.
The Mavericks won the Netball Superleague title in 2008 and 2011 and the ‘Women in Black’ are the current holders of the Allianz Premier 15s title and have won three of the four titles in that tournament and were runners-up in the other season. There is plenty of good material to work with and Crombie is rightly excited about the future.
“This year we saw 19 of our players involved in the Rugby World Cup and our season ticket sales have risen from 31 to 790. We are witnessing an explosion of interest in women’s sport, and we are doing all we can at Saracens to ensure we react to that.
“Over the past six months we have been doing what we can to ensure we provide the best possible support to our elite athletes to allow them to grow and develop both on and off the playing arena. In addition, both the Saracens Women’s team and the Mavericks have been afforded the same access to facilities and expertise at the club as the men’s rugby side.
“They each now have a full-time S&C coach and physio and can utilise all the support systems on offer to the men. We are renowned at Saracens for the way we look after our people both on and off the field and that now applies more than ever to the two women’s teams at the club.
“We believe in investing in people to get the best results for the business. We are determined to grow the opportunities for women in sport via our Foundation and to turn our two elite women’s teams into full-time professional outfits.”
Last week Saracens learned they will be part of the Premier 15s league moving forward. The RFU were impressed at the 10-year strategy document produced by the club for Saracens Womens Rugby, entitled ‘At the Forefront of Womens Sport’. The strategy outlines how Saracens intends to professionalise the women’s team as well as how to ensure commercial success in order to achieve a fully-sustainable future.
Among the key aims and targets for the next 10 years are:
Grow our audience to over 5,400 people attending every game
Continue to be a leader in player development with more than 55% of our players coming through our pathway
Continue to be the most caring place for players by providing the best player welfare support to our players to ensure their wellbeing on and off the pitch
To professionalise the game and ensure the long-term sustainability of the Club and league
“With the women’s World Cup coming up in England in 2025 we share a common goal with the RFU and the Premier 15s clubs in making it a huge success. We want to ensure that Twickenham is filled to its 82,000 capacity for the final – and that the Red Roses can win the tournament.”
Saracens are also rightly proud of the effort they are putting into sport for young girls and women via their Foundation. The drive continues to provide life-changing impacts via the ‘Empower Her’ programme, supported by Shawbrook Bank.
This scheme continues to provide mentoring from elite female athletes to girls aged 16-24. The aim of the project is to create future leaders in sport and business.
“A lot of good work has already been done, but there is so much more to achieve. These are exciting times for women’s sport – especially at Saracens,” added Crombie.