Diageo has unveiled a new Guinness campaign that shines a spotlight on women’s rugby by way of a documentary and TV advert, focusing on a Japanese women’s rugby team.
Liberty Fields tells the story of a group of women who defied the social conventions of 80s Japan by forming an ultimately indomitable rugby team. In 1989 Tokyo, women’s rugby was almost unheard of and the team faced ridicule and hostility for the spot they played. Despite their humble beginnings, they soon became one of the strongest sides around and many of them were selected to represent their country in the Women’s World Cup.
Liberty Fields RFC played at this level despite having no coach, no doctor and very little support. Balancing training with jobs and families, they set a new level for women’s sport in Japan, showing what you can achieve with grit, determination, and an unbreakable spirit.
Liberty Fields is the latest story that makes up the Made of More series, which champions real people around the globe who act with integrity and character to enrich the world around them.
Previous films have included Sisters, which told the story of two sisters who rose through rugby to eventually play for opposing England and Scotland national teams, and Never Alone, which recounted the story of Gareth Thomas, who through the strength he received from his team had the courage to become the first openly gay professional rugby union player.
Ms Kishida, of the Liberty Fields team, sums up their spirit, saying: “It was back in the day, when getting harassed, sexually and otherwise, was a given. Men expected women to be young, pretty and willing to quit their jobs for marriage. At the time, the women’s team weren’t recognised as official. So, we founded our own organisation.
“We lose if women can’t play rugby. The reason why we’ve kept on going is because we don’t want to lose. I wanted society to accept that women can love this kind of sport too, not just men.”
Former Irish international rugby player Lynne Cantwell, and Chair of Sport Ireland’s Women in Sport committee, said: “Women’s sport has made significant strides in recent years. It has become much more visible yet plenty of barriers remain not just in terms of getting women involved and staying involved, but also perception. The story of Liberty Fields rings true to this day and shines a welcome spotlight not just on the obstacles to be overcome but the many benefits society stands to gain from overcoming them and creating a more inclusive and diverse culture in sport and beyond.”
Former international rugby player Jamie Heaslip said: “Liberty Fields highlights the importance of camaraderie well beyond the field of play and the role it has in enriching the lives of those involved. This is an opportunity that should be available to all regardless of gender. There does remain a significant contrast between men’s and women’s rugby in terms of attendance and investment but not in terms of the player’s commitment. We can only begin to change the former by highlighting the latter and through telling stories such as that of Liberty Fields.”
Recently, Diageo has worked to support diversity within the sport of rugby, becoming a partner of the Women’s Six Nations in 2019 with a six-year agreement, as well as painting St James’s Gate at the Guinness Storehouse to support its partnership with Union Cup, Europe’s biggest LGBT+ and inclusive rugby tournament that took place in Ireland for this first time this year.