Leeds Rhinos boss Lois Forsell talks player pay in the women’s game

In the past week it’s been announced that York Valkyrie would become the second Women’s Super League side to pay their players, following suit with what Leeds Rhinos had already done and one of the key people behind that is head coach, Lois Forsell.

Forsell is still only 31 but has been coaching Rhinos since February 2020 when she replaced fellow Rhinos’ legend Alex Cuthbertson.

Despite only being in the coaching game for  a few years Forsell has made a huge impact, not least with Rhinos lifting the Grand Final during the 2022 season as they became the first side to ever life the trophy twice.

The women’s game is in a brilliant position following the World Cup and Forsell is well aware of that, something she expressed her desire for the game to build upon in an interview with Sky Sports.

Forsell said: “It’s just about getting more people in and watching the game. The viewing figures were absolutely incredible for the World Cup and it was just so good to see people tuning in.

“I think that hopefully when we get those bigger games, we will see those viewing figures improve again and then it is just over to the clubs of how they can get more people in their stands and how they can attract people to watch the game.

“Improving the commercial viability of the sport is key and is the next step for the women’s game so we just need to get as many people watching it as we possibly can.”

With the women’s tournament running alongside the men’s and wheelchair tournament it gained a huge platform with all matches televised as the English women made their way to the semi-final.

Forsell now believes that the step to paying players is just the first in making women’s rugby league as big as other female sports such as football or rugby union, where professional opportunities have been around for a number of years.

“I think the overriding theme is the girls played it because they love it and that shouldn’t change. Our first aim at Leeds was to mitigate costs, so it shouldn’t cost girls to play.

“Paying the players is a step in the right direction because ultimately we want to make it professional and we want to make it an attractive sport and to do that you need the best performance on the field.

“This year, the payment of players is not going to change their life but it is a step in the right direction of how we make the game more commercially viable and how we make a more full-time arena for the girls an option.

“Hopefully it is a nice bonus and they can see that this step is a much bigger picture in the framework and direction that we as a club, and hopefully the whole game, want to head.”

Forsell will lead her Rhinos’ team out at Headingley for the Women’s Super League opener on Easter Sunday, April 9th, against York Valykrie in a game that is set to be a double-header with the men taking on Huddersfield Giants at 6pm.

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