St Helens RFC chief executive Mike Rush said introducing match payments for the women’s team was “driven by market forces”.

The club announced they will be introducing matchday payments for players for the first time ever, starting this season.

The current crop of players will be the first to receive a payment, which for many will be seen as a milestone moment for women’s Rugby League.

Rush (pictured), speaking exclusively to Merseysportlive, said: “So, it’s driven by the market forces, but I won’t shy away from the fact we still wanted to make sure everything off the field was right first before you make that step and we’ve done it in collaboration with the girls.”

St Helens press conference
St Helens’ press conference featuring Chairman, players and coach.

“It’s at the infancy of its journey.

“If we look at women’s football, Everton play at Walton Hall Park. Liverpool play at Prenton Park.

“There’s still an evolution that they’ve got to go through. Man City don’t sell out the Etihad.

“However, we saw 60,000 at Arsenal v Tottenham in the WSL the other day at the Emirates and you know, some of that is off the back of community activity.”

Women’s sport across the globe is growing exponentially. Football, boxing and tennis continue to make the back pages.

But Rush believes the governing bodies have a responsibility to help the women’s game.

“They need to have a strategic plan, which I think’s got to be a one to five and a five to 10 year plan.

“I think we have to look at the numbers that are playing the game because if we haven’t got a broad base then we can’t get an elite competition, and then we have to look at the standards. Some teams still don’t play in stadiums.”

The chief executive said he is aware of the challenges the sport still faces to reach professionalism, and feels this may still be a long way off.

“We still don’t get, you know, maybe the medical bang on so there’s still room for improvement.

“And sometimes the governing body has to do that because it’s the governing body and its role is to govern. You know, it’s not for us to make policy.”

With many women’s sports having already turned professional, Rush has ambitions to make the Red Vs fully professional.

However, he feels this will take time with broadcast deals as key elements to the journey.

“The broadcast deal to go with it and everything else. Then we aren’t going to generate the money to make it full-time.

“You know the women’s football couldn’t do that overnight.

“Women’s boxing has only got to a stage when it can do it because we’ve got some real big headliners like Natasha Jonas and Katie Taylor.

“They have become become household names. It’s a journey. I don’t think the time frame is soon, we’ll just keep going.”

The Red V kick-off their season when they host London Broncos on March 16.

The side will be looking to defend their Challenge Cup title, after winning at Wembley last season.