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Increasing representation

Since launching their podcast during lockdown in 2020, Black Girls Ruck (BGR) have gone from strength to strength and they now reach an audience of thousands on Instagram.

Their aim is simple yet powerful - to provide greater opportunities for Black women in rugby.

How it all began

Founder Anne Onwusiri, started training at Hackney Rugby Football Club (HRFC) in 2019 and noticed a distinct lack of representation of Black females in the sport.

On contacting the club’s head coach, Anne was comforted to find “another plus-sized Black woman” and used this as motivation to strive for more Black females to feel seen and represented in the rugby community.

They set about their mission, to provide a platform to reach and give visibility to underserved communities through the launch of the BGR podcast. 

Since then BGR has taken off and has gathered lots of interest from rugby lovers across the country.

A collaborative way of working 

Following this success, listeners began asking to meet in person, host joint rugby events and start a BGR team.

Roughly 80 women now communicate through a WhatsApp chat and come together annually to take part in rugby 10s and 7s tournaments held by HRFC.

Off the back of BGR, an all-Black men’s team was also formed and BGR has continued to foster positive relationships with a wide range of organisations and community groups.

As with any new group or initiative to reach underserved communities, Anne encountered some challenges, including:

  • a high level of administrative tasks that were hard to manage alongside an already-existing full time career
  • uncertainty on where to access sponsorship to help BGR progress and develop 
  • balancing running costs while striving to offer cost-free and accessible opportunities for everyone
  • understanding the legalities of the group, including setting up a hardship fund.

Despite these challenges, there’s been lots of personal and wider benefits that came with starting the development of the BGR programme, such as:

  • new sporting opportunities, both recreational and professional, which used to be limited until the start of the club 
  • receiving positive feedback that BGR has made people more comfortable in challenging discrimination in their teams and communities
  • an 80-person strong WhatsApp group that's become a productive sounding board for many BGR members, enabling them to bring up issues of discrimination to the group and support each other in responding or understanding the possible next steps.

What's next? 

BGR continues to thrive and they’re in the process of becoming a registered charity so they can provide hardship funds for theirs and the wider community.

Anne’s ambition is to have funding available through BGR, as a result of direct sponsorship or their ‘Go Fund Me’ page, that can be distributed to Black female rugby players who may need financial assistance to pay for match fees, memberships or kit.

BGR's top tips

Thanks to their experience BGR has come up with very useful advice for others trying to reach underserved communities:

Don't let yourself get overwhelmed with details or issues. A long journey starts with a single step - just do it! 
Remember the ‘why’ – if you have a passion and clear reason for engagement then the work will always feel worth it.
Recognise and don’t downplay the societal issues that certain communities may face. Talk about them!
Keep pushing for equity in sport, don’t dilute the message.