A Rugby Life

A Rugby Volunteer's Blog

What’s the French for deja-vu?

This witty but informative piece about the last 20 minutes of the France v Wales game is well worth a read.  It made me chuckle but it rightly exonerates Wayne Barnes from any charges of incompetence.

Click the link below:

Source: wayne through the looking-glass

Join us for Beer & Bangers at Twickenham

DSC03063On Saturday England take on Scotland for what promises to be an enthralling game.  If you are lucky enough to have a ticket for the game, join us for something to eat and drink before the game.  Our main sponsor Greene King is kindly providing some mini kegs of their excellent beer while our Women & Girls Rugby sponsor Musk’s is generously donating loads of their delicious sausages for us to munch on.  There will be wine, soft drinks and various nibbles too if beer & sausage aren’t your thing.

We will be in the Cardinal Vaughan car park (see map) from 1:30pm; look out for the Eastern Counties branded gazebo by a white Citroen 4×4.

We will try to get as close as we can to the entrance from the West Fan Village and we will post our exact location on social media on Saturday morning.

It would be great to see anyone associated with Eastern Counties rugby.

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Council Member Briefing–March 2017

WP_20170226_18_24_28_ProMy latest RFU Council Member Briefing is available by clicking the link below:

Council Member Briefing – March 2017

This edition includes an update to the Paying of Players proposals, news of the RFU President for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and thoughts on the first three rounds of the Six Nations.

Paying Players in the Community game – Update

Rugby moneyAt the February RFU Council meeting we received an update on the Payment of Players proposals.  You can read the document by clicking here but in brief the update has recommendations in four areas:

  • The financial ranges for payments at certain levels of the game
  • Content of the annual declaration
  • Regulatory principles to implement proposals
  • Loss of entitlements for non-compliance with regulations

The recommendation for the financial thresholds at the various levels is that they should remain the same, but there is an allowance for player/coaches, so at Level 3 an additional £25k can be spent on a player coach, £20k at Level 4 and £15k at Level 5.  At Level 6 and below the amount is £10k.

The annual declaration has an extra clause to allow the RFU to request financial or tax documentation and it clarifies that the four club officials who will sign it are the Chairman, President, Treasurer and Hon Secretary.  This has been criticised in some quarters as unenforceable but as a contributor to a debate on Facebook said: ‘(A false declaration) will require clubs presenting dishonest financial returns and if it suits some will, but to get away with it they will have to defraud the RFU, the Tax Office and their members’.  I think there would be few officials that would want to risk their own or their club’s reputation let alone the sanctions that would follow.

The funding entitlements that clubs that pay higher than the prescribed thresholds would lose have been added to.  In my previous article I said that although clubs at Level 6 and below probably would feel some financial pain, those playing at Level 3 to 5 would probably not be very inconvenienced unless they wanted financial help with a facility upgrade.

However, the original list that included travel funding, the supplemental ticket funds and new RFU loans and grants have been added to:

  • Existing interest-free loans will be converted into interest-bearing loans
  • Previously awarded grants may be subject to a clawback if a club start to pay players above the permitted limits
  • Clubs at Levels 3 and 4 will lose the RFU subsidy for Match Officials costs, the effect of which is reckoned to be between £7k and £10k per club

The recommendations stopped short of withdrawing insurance cover and entitlement to international tickets, but the amounts are beginning to be more significant.

You can read the document by clicking here but as ever please feel free to share your comments via the comment button or on Facebook.

Related Articles:

Expect the unexpected

italyI was going to write a blog article about the weekend’s Six Nations games but this article by fellow blogger Double Dummy Scissors pretty much mirrors my view:

This weekend, more than any other, provided proof that should you ever feel you know what is going to happen in the sport of Rugby Union, you don’t. We have become heady with this Eddie Jones …

Source: Expect the unexpected

They’ve got goats…

goat daffodilsTravelling to Cardiff for the Wales v England game I can’t help but think back to the games I have seen at the Principality Stadium.  This will be the fifth Six Nations game I have seen there but it was a World Cup warm up game in 2011 which has the fondest memories.  It was played in the summer on a beautiful warm sunny day and to be honest I can’t remember who won (I think it was the Welsh).  But it was post match when the fun began.

I left the players’ dinner early with fellow Council Member Alex Murphy and went into the city which was a sea of red and white shirts as tens of thousands of English and Welsh supporters flooded the pubs and bars and celebrated the game of rugby and the healthy rivalry between the two nations.  Alex and I were wearing our RFU blazers and we were submitted to good-natured banter from both sets of fans.  The partying went on late into the night and I as far as I was concerned all was well with the relationship between the two old rivals.

Then came the nightmare of 2013 when an inexperienced England team was intimidated by a hostile crowd in a Grand Slam decider with Wales winning 30-3.  Cardiff was not a happy place to be for an Englishman having to watch the Welsh celebrations on the pitch, then walking back to the hotel for the post-match function wearing and England Rugby coat I was verbally abused more than once.  It wasn’t any different when England won in 2015 as I was called the same sort of names after that game too.

Clearly, playing England matters for the Welsh rugby fan and I had been fooled into a false sense of camaraderie in 2011, but I should point out that the majority of our friends over the bridge are nothing but good-natured and friendly to the English.  This time around I will be better prepared. 

Certainly the players will know what to expect and it wouldn’t surprise me if Eddie Jones played them parts of the 2013 game to remind them about the Welsh crowd and how intimidating they can be.  His pre-match press conference alluded to Welsh ‘shenanigans’, referring to the attempt two years ago to get the England team out on the pitch early on a very cold evening and make them wait there while the Wales team stayed in the warm.  My favourite phrase from Eddie was ‘They’re a cunning lot, the Welsh….they’ve got goats, they’ve got daffodils, they’ve got everything!’.  Wales is probably better known for its sheep rather than its goats but I’ll wait to see if either play a part in the Welsh game plan.

Make your Rugby Club ‘The Third Place’

bar1The concept of The Third Place is not a new one.  In 1989 urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg wrote about how the ‘First Place’ is one’s home and family, the ‘Second Place’ is the workplace where many of us spend the majority of our waking hours, and the ‘Third Place’ is the social surroundings where you spend time away from the first two.

Examples of The Third Place are coffee shops (some even market themselves as such) community centres, pubs, bingo, etc., in other words places anyone can go to regardless of social status where you can be comfortable, chat with friends, where food and drink are available and which are accessible and relatively inexpensive.  Sound familiar?

Before the 2015 Rugby World Cup the RFU’s facility strategy changed from one that was solely aimed at playing; changing rooms, pitches, floodlights, etc.; to encompass social spaces too with the intention of improving clubhouses to make them more attractive places to watch rugby.  The hope was that as England progressed through the competition more people would think about watching the games at their local rugby club, and after experiencing the unique atmosphere in updated surroundings a new cohort of supporters would become club members.

A good plan on paper but it did rely on England at least making the quarter finals!

But with or without a World Cup as a catalyst, rugby clubs should be aiming to be the third place in their community, not just for players but for parents, supporters and potential new members too.  Clubs with a mini section should try to encourage parents to stay in the clubhouse on a Sunday morning by offering hot drinks (a commercial coffee machine should be able to pay for itself), internet access and comfortable armchairs or sofas if space allows.  A large screen TV on the wall helps to keep people engaged, although subscriptions costs for clubs to Sky or BT Sport are such that only the bigger clubs can justify the expense.

The same applies to midweek training be it adult or youth, but if the clubhouse is open anyway, is it not feasible to try to get some of the local residents to come for a social beer?  The trick is to get the right kind of marketing campaign that shows the club as friendly and welcoming, perhaps starting with an open evening.  A free glass of wine with a few nibbles may be enough to get some through the door; the rest is up to the people skills of the club’s volunteers.

This season’s NatWest RugbyForce programme is encouraging clubs to try the crowdfunding route where projects are funded by the wider community.  Maybe it’s worth a putting together a Third Place project for your club that upgrades the social space, pays for some new furniture, upgrades the internet signal and funds a screen with a satellite TV subscription for a year.

Most, though not all, clubs are in a position to market themselves as the Third place in their community. All it needs is some imagination, determination, patience and the whole club behind the concept.

Council Member Briefing–December 2016

IMGP3824My latest Council member briefing can be downloaded by clicking the link below

Council Member Briefing – December 2016

Driving Rugby Forward – YRA Conference 2016

LWP_0436This year’s Young Rugby Ambassadors’ Conference was held in Birmingham and I was asked by organiser Jenny Box to take part along with Louise Latter from Middlesex RFU and a number of RFU staff.  About 60 YRAs from around the country turned up and Jenny introduced the day then asked me to say a few words, which to my surprise seemed to go down quite well.

The YRAs were split into two groups, one of them having a presentation about the v-inspired programme, a youth volunteering charity that provides volunteering opportunities for 14 to 25 year olds and which supports the YRA project.  More information is at vinspired.com

The other group were put through a series of Apprentice style tasks with yours truly taking the Lord Sugar role.  I got into character and had Karren and Claude as sidekicks.  The group was divided into groups of three to six people and they all trouped into the boardroom for a briefing.  They were given 90 minutes to complete six tasks starting with electing a chair and coming up with a name, logo and motto for their club.  After 10 minutes I blew a whistle and each group had fifteen seconds to get someone to my boardroom to collect the next task which involved setting up a committee and allocating roles of Hon Secretary, President, etc.

Ten minutes later the whistle would go again and a third task would be given, this time to have a two committee meetings during the session and so on until they had a total of six tasks, many of them running concurrently.  This is to give a sense of what it is like to keep several balls in the air at once and the pressure to prioritise.  The video at the end gives a good idea of how the day went.

lwp_0534The conference finished with YRAs being presented with certificates and various items of stash, varying from beanies and polos  to jackets depending on how may volunteering hours they had recorded.

I have seen some of the candidates since the conference and they all said what a good time they had and learnt something about running a club.  I certainly had a great day.

Link to some great pictures from the day courtesy of Leo Wilkinson Photography



Six Nations to have bonus points

DSC00940For as long as I have been on the RFU Council, and this is my ninth season, the issue of bonus points for the Six Nations has been discussed by the 6N committee and each time it has been rejected.  This is because the Grand Slam is seen as the pinnacle of the competition but with a bonus point for scoring four tries and another for losing by seven points or less, it is possible to win all your games yet finish in second place.

For example, Team A wins all five of its games but fails to gain a four-try bonus point in any of the matches so scoring a total of 20 points.  Team B loses to Team A by seven points or less and wins the other four games with a try bonus point in each, thus scoring 21 points and winning the Championship.

So when I read the headline I wondered why there had been a change of heart.  As ever the answer is in the fine print.  The press release on the Six Nations site quotes the following rules:

(i) The Union that wins the Match shall be awarded four Match Points or (if it scores four tries or more in the process) five Match Points.
(ii) The Union that loses the Match shall be awarded no Match Points or (if it scores four tries or more in the process or loses by a margin of seven points or fewer) one Match Point or (if it scores four tries or more in the process and loses by a margin of seven points or fewer) two Match Points.
(iii) Unions that draw a Match shall each be awarded two Match Points and any of them that scores four tries or more in the process shall be awarded a further one Match Point.
(iv) A Union that wins all five of its Matches (a “Grand Slam”) shall be awarded a further three Match Points.

Point (iv) is the crucial one; the extra three points for winning all your games will guarantee the Championship and the Grand Slam.

Well done to the Six Nations committee for finding a solution that encourages attacking play but retains the primacy of the Grand Slam

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