Women have turned to Twitter to protest against a reported Home Office decision to prevent 78 lacrosse coaches from entering the U.K., using the hashtag #SOSLacrosse to drum up support for their campaign.
According to English Lacrosse, the governing body for lacrosse in England, the coaches were due to arrive from the U.S. to coach in several English schools and universities but have been denied U.K. visas.
English Lacrosse estimates that in the region of 200,000 young people in the U.K. — 60 percent of them girls — will be denied the chance to get into lacrosse as a result of this decision.
“Sport participation, particularly amongst females is a hot topic with the government,” said English Lacrosse on its website. “Yet, our sport enabling coaching programme has been given just 20 days to close its doors. This decision has been taken with no option of support, or opportunity to challenge. Help us make some noise and draw attention to this situation.”
The issue has arisen as a result of a recent change in government requirements, meaning that English Lacrosse is now classed as an employment business, not a National Governing Body. The company considers itself to be a National Governing Body because it has been helping boys and girls across the U.K. play lacrosse and has been doing so for many years.
“English Lacrosse has been organising and administering the overseas coaching programme since 1982 without experiencing any visa certification issues, so this situation is unprecedented and unique to us,” said the company.
Another concern raised by UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) is that the female lacrosse coaches employed are no longer seen as elite, a status that previously gave them unrestricted access to the U.K.
“I can promise you that English Lacrosse staff will continue to work diligently to resolve this issue over the coming days and weeks,” said the company’s CEO, Mark Coups. “Your continued support and assistance during this time is vital to achieving a positive outcome.”
This poses a huge problem, not just for the U.S. coaches ready to travel to the U.K. within the next few weeks to start coaching in the upcoming season, but for the number of schools, universities and clubs who will now struggle to help young people who want to get into lacrosse.
Supporters of the #SOSLacrosse campaign have been tweeting alongside the hashtag #ThisGirlCan, reflecting the fact that lacrosse is a predominantly female sport in the U.K.
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The history of lacrosse
What we now know as lacrosse was started by North American Indian tribes in the 1400s. It was known as “baggataway” and was part religious ritual, part military training. In the 1840s French settlers in Canada took up the game, with the Montreal Lacrosse Club establishing the first set of written rules in 1856.
Canadian dentist William George Beers is considered to be the father of modern lacrosse. He revised the original rules, which were then adopted by the National Lacrosse Association of Canada in 1867. The sport then spread to the U.S., England, Ireland, Scotland and Australia, with the first international lacrosse match taking place in 1867 between Canada and the U.S.
Women began formally playing lacrosse in the late 1800s. Girls’ schools in England used the sport to keep field hockey players fit during spring. The Ladies Lacrosse Association was founded in England in 1912 and English P.E. teacher Constance Applebee set up a U.S. women’s lacrosse camp in 1922, from which the U.S. Women’s Lacrosse Association was born.