A Rugby Life

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A change in the local league structure

The Adult Competitions Review’s recommendations are due to be laid to rest at the forthcoming RFU Council meeting, but a significant change to the structure of the Eastern end of the London Leagues is being consulted upon.

The 2014/15 season saw the revamp of the Eastern Counties Leagues with nearly eighty teams, including 2nd, 3rd and 4th XVs, being placed into eight leagues with promotion and relegation between them, although with some relaxed rules at the lower levels in terms of players number, uncontested scrums etc.  As we get towards the end of the second season playing with this structure, it has proved to be successful with more teams taking part and more games being played.

Its success has been due in no small part in keeping the leagues local so trying to minimise travel for teams, and the travelling issue has been brought into sharp focus by five cancellations to date of games in London Two North East and London Three North East.  All the transgressors have been from Essex with Eastern Counties Clubs losing home games, with Holt and Lowestoft & Yarmouth suffering two call-offs each and Cantabs one (See Holt and the game that never was). 

This is a problem that is unlikely to go away so the Eastern Counties Competitions committee got together with their Essex counterparts and have proposed that London Three North East is split between the two areas and Eastern Counties One is split North and South.  There will be consequences for teams in the lower leagues too.

All clubs in Eastern Counties have been emailed with details of the proposals.  I have reproduced the text of the email below and links to its attachments are underneath, including illustrations of how the new structure would look, but it would be good to get the opinions of the wider rugby playing population in the area. 

Pros and cons have been identified: 

  • On the plus side there are fewer long journeys to away games and as such there may be more travelling support and therefore more revenue for home sides.  Shorter journeys will also mean more players will return to their home club afterwards boosting revenue there and travel costs will be lower for players and for clubs
  • Against the restructure is the perception that a team’s status has been downgraded if they are playing more locally.  The movement of teams to create the new structure could mean big differences in playing quality between top and bottom which may take some time to even out, with the fear that standards may drop rather than improve

If this is something that will affect you or your club, please take the time to read through the documentation and voice your opinion by commenting on this blog or on Facebook.

Dear Club Official

You may be aware that the RFU has been conducting a review of the adult game within England. The original proposals which involved, amongst other things, flattening league structures to reduce travelling times and the introduction of 12 team leagues were met with some heavyweight opposition and the original Review Committee was asked to go back to consult further and reconsider its proposals.

To cut a long story short, it seems that the chances of any significant proposals being agreed and implemented is extremely unlikely.

Despite the above, it appears both from the research conducted in the above exercise and from our own experience in talking to clubs and players while reorganising the EC Leagues, that there is a reluctance by players to travel long distances to play their league matches. This is borne out by the increasing number of fixtures lost – in particular as a result of the reluctance of some Essex based teams to travel to away fixtures in parts of EC- with the consequent loss of playing time and revenue for those teams affected.

In conjunction with Beiron Rees, the Essex representative, the London Divisional Organising Committee was asked whether or not they would consider a proposal to regionalise London NE3 (Level 8) if it was supported by the affected clubs. It was agreed that such a move would be possible subject to the required consultation and formal agreement of a significant majority of the clubs affected in each CB. It was determined that the ‘relevant clubs’ were those currently in London NE3 and also all Clubs in London NE2 and EC1 who might be affected in future years were they to be promoted or relegated into LNE3. Should a majority in favour of the change be obtained, a formal motion would be put to the AGM of the London DOC in May.

The EC Management Committee agreed unanimously at a meeting on 14th March to go ahead with consultation to seek the approval or otherwise of the affected clubs within EC and we understand that Essex have also agreed to consult.

Some of the pros and cons were given as follows:


· Increased player participation / retention (players working Saturday mornings, more likely spousal approval etc.)

· Reduction of disparate ‘home’ and ‘away’ teams from the same club

· Increased numbers of spectators from away teams

· Increased revenue from lunches, bar etc. due to the above

· More likelihood of players returning to home club after matches for socials etc.

· More press coverage as more ‘derby’ matches

· Reduction in travel costs to players and/or clubs


· Perceived loss of status

· Over familiarity within playing population (need a different challenge)

· Dilution of playing standards

· Too big a jump / culture shock to level 7

I am attaching a ‘snapshot’ taken two weeks ago to show which league each club could possibly play in next season. This cannot be finalised until the end of the season and the implications for EC Leagues 2-4, in particular, would be discussed with clubs at the League meetings which are taking place later in April. It is likely that there could be at least two alternative proposals for these clubs to consider.

The attached letter is being sent to all affected clubs in EC and Essex CB’s and I would strongly urge you, after consulting within your club, to return the completed form to Ian Forton by 17th April to ensure that your views are taken into account.

To ensure all affected clubs receive this correspondence, copies are being sent to League Contacts, Club Chairmen and Honorary Secretaries; please ensure that only one copy is returned to Ian reflecting the view of your club.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to hear from you.

Kind regards,

John Mackay


3 responses to “A change in the local league structure

  1. John Mackay 5 April 2016 at 10:48 am

    Andrew, thank you for publicising these proposals.
    I just wanted to say that the possible consequential changes to leagues below LNE3 if the proposal is carried are by no means ‘set in stone’ and, whether or not the main proposal is carried, we are about to hold our twice-yearly consultation meetings for the EC Leagues. These will be an opportunity to discuss changes if the proposal is carried and/ or to consider our experiences over the current season and whether any changes need to be made to structures or regulations.

    The consultation meetings commence on 20th April at Shelford RFC for ECW teams, 21st at Sudbury for ECS teams and 25th at Lakenham Hewett for ECN teams. All meetings start at 7.30 with a light buffet beforehand courtesy of EC. If it is more convenient to attend another meeting rather than your ‘home’ session, this is no problem as the content will be the same.
    If you have comments or proposals you would like to be considered by clubs at all the meetings, please let me have them by 15th April. My contact details are on the EC website.

    Apologies to those waiting for news of possible play-offs /promotion / relegation but, as usual, we have to wait for the higher league issues to be settled before we can finalise our own arrangements. I hope we will be in a position to confirm arrangements very shortly.
    John Mackay
    EC Competitions Chairman

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Max Pocock 6 April 2016 at 9:03 am


    A “wider view”![Ely will hopefully give a view reflecting players, but may reflect that when, finally (hopefully!) promotion to a London league beckons, so does league reorganisation!]

    My personal view is that while no doubt travel distance has caused fixtures to be cancelled, so does the potential miss-match. If a side has lost its home game heavily, it can be a factor in raising a side to play the away fixture. As the league’s become more local geographically (and for sustainability are at least 12 teams), there is a risk that miss-matches increase, and while less matches are cancelled for travel distance, more may be cancelled because of perceived miss-matches (or a combination).

    A 50 point win does no good to either the winners, or the losers, nor the game itself. It would be a shame if a potential solution to one challenge created another.


    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Eastern Counties league structure proposal voted down | A Rugby Life

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