Pat Crawshaw has been appointed Vice President of the Rugby Football League, a first for volunteers in the sport.
Sharing women’s stories in rugby league 40/20 Magazine 2018 By Julia Lee
I have had the honour and pleasure of knowing Pat Crawshaw for over 20 years when our paths first crossed when she was secretary of Walnut Warriors and I was the referee. I was changing in the saloon door cupboard and Pat was managing the match day business. We were both pioneers of our time and in Pat’s case it has been nearly 40 years volunteering in the community game. I would suggest that there are very few other women in the sport who have had an impact at a local, regional and national over such a long period of time
Pat originates from Bramhall in Cheshire not an area known for rugby league, however, fell in love with the sport watching her brother-in law play for Walnut Warriors in Wakefield. Pat and her husband John were regular supporters. She remembered with a wry smile that in 1979 due to her gender she was not allowed to travel away on the coach or attend the AGM which was being held in the changing rooms, at which, ironically, she was appointed the secretary of the club, one of the first women secretaries in the community game
Pat talked fondly of the 15 years she was secretary and her dogged determination which kept together a successful local pub team. There was one particular season she remembered when they slayed bigger teams in cup competitions and received the highest accolades. Walnut recognised Pats hard work and dedication on two occasions she received ‘clubman’ of the year
It was not long before other areas of the game recognised Pat’s skills and attributes. Paul Crashley, the then Chairman of the West Yorkshire Sunday League approached her to be PRO in 1985. She dedicated her time with Walnut and the league reporting all the results of the 67 teams in the league with floppy disc and phone in hand. It was then in 1992 she was appointed as chairperson, one of the first women to hold such a position.
A long-term management member of the Wakefield and District ARL Pat was President for 15 years until 2013 when she stood down. She was made a life member in 2014
Pat, was elected to the BARLA Board of Management, the national governing body for amateur Rugby League, as well as being the vice-chair of the Youth and Junior Council. It was a period you needed to be particularly resilient, BARLA and the RFL were sparring on several issues and she often found herself playing negotiator a role for which her personality is particularly suited.
When Pat retired in 2002 from her position as assistant head teacher in a Leeds inner city high school she was able to spend more time on rugby league.
Pat, was elected to the BARLA Board of Management, the national governing body for amateur Rugby League, in 2005 and became the vice-chair of the Youth and Junior Council. It was a period you needed to be particularly resilient, BARLA and the RFL were sparring on several issues and she often found herself playing negotiator a role for which her personality is particularly suited. During this time she developed an interest in the women and girls game.
This is when in 2006 our paths crossed again when I was a National Development Manager at the RFL. We had developed a strategy to integrate the female game into the rugby league pathways. At the time the female game sat outside the sport and we need an independent person to steer and unite the game. Pat was perfect for the role and Chaired the Women and Girls Steering Group, which still exists all be it a different name for the management of the female programme. This was an important period for the female game and the progress made under the steady guidance of Pat has given the recent launch of the Women’s Super League and girls league a solid foundation.
A member of the Student Rugby League Board since 2006 Pat took over as Chair in January 2014. This is the body which oversees Rugby League in Colleges and Universities. She continues to push for the spread of the game into regions which would not normally be considered hotbeds of Rugby League
In 2014 Pat was recognised at a Community Game Awards Ceremony, as one of the first recipients of the RFL Order of Merit, the highest award in the Rugby Football League, given for long term voluntary service. This is a real indication of the high esteem in which she is held in the community game.
Pat continues to work tirelessly for the sport, without dedicated volunteers like Pat the sport would not be able to operate. She is the University and Colleges representative on the Community Board and Rugby League Council as well as a member of the Community Board Regulatory Group and also Chairs the Yorkshire Men’s and Women’s League Disciplinary Panel.
Her commitment and passion for the community and particularly the female game is one to be celebrated. She has been instrumental in insisting that the profile of the female game is raised at the highest levels. She firmly believes that it is only with this support can the female game grow. She attends games the length and breadth of the country, these miles will increase as she carries out her duties as Vice President of the RFL.