A Rugby Life

A Rugby Volunteer's Blog

Is there a future for RFU Cup competitions?

It has been a busy few days and I have only just got round to looking at the results for last weekend in detail. This was a Cup weekend with only Clubs at Level 4 and above playing league games.  I was dismayed at the number of conceded games in the London & South East Division and even more so when I saw how many involved clubs from Eastern Counties.

This isn’t the first time I have written about the number of call offs in cup competitions (see previous article here)  but I think it is worth revisiting to see if anything has changed.  I should say that I am not aiming criticism at individual clubs, I am questioning if the RFU Cup competitions are seen as so important when compared to league rugby.

In the first rounds of the Intermediate Cup and Senior Vase and the Preliminary round of the Junior Vase, 31 games were due to be played and 8 were conceded, about one in four.  What surprised me was that it wasn’t necessarily teams that are struggling that conceded.  Diss and Ipswich lie first and fourth respectively in London 2 North East but despite their current good form, Diss conceded their game away to Welwyn who are second from bottom of London 2 NW and more perplexing, Ipswich conceded a home tie against Woodford who are several places below them in the league.

On the face of it, Diss would have been odds on to go through to the second round and Ipswich would at least have had a healthy bar take on the day with every chance of a win too.  Could it be that players saw a gap in the league programme and arranged to do something else?  If they were aware that there was a cup game did they decide that having a rest week was more important in the context of the whole season?

In the Senior Vase I have nothing but the utmost sympathy for Lowestoft & Yarmouth RFC.  Last season the club fell victim to league call-offs by Upminster in September and May & Baker in December, but L&Y duly honoured the return fixtures later in the season.

This season L&Y and Upminster are still in London 3 NE but Lowestoft are going through a difficult time on the pitch, suffering a couple of heavy defeats in September.  On 1 October the first team travelled down the A12 to Upminster who by all accounts were very appreciative that they had made the journey as there was a pre-match lunch with a lot of supporters on the day.  The home team won 85-0 and they gave due praise to L&Y for travelling albeit with a weakened side. However, when Upminster were due to make the return journey to the Suffolk Coast for a cup tie just two weeks later, they conceded the game, despite being almost certain to win (with apologies to L&Y members).  Again, this looks like an example of Cup games jut not being seen as important as league games.

I haven’t looked to see what the picture is like around the rest of the country but I wonder for how long these Cup competitions will continue when support for them seems to be diminishing.


10 responses to “Is there a future for RFU Cup competitions?

  1. max pocock 19 October 2016 at 4:46 pm

    A personal view, with a focus on sustainability. Ely finally made it to the dizzy heights of a 12 team London League, but May and Baker pulled out, so again just 10 home league fixtures. Fortunately, a cracking home cup game v Cheshunt last Saturday and some new friends made as visiting alikadoos were introduced to west Indian porter. If RFU Cups are ended, sustainability would seem to require at least 14 team leagues, or some extra league fixtures some other way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andrew 19 October 2016 at 7:06 pm

      For clubs that enter and engage with the competition it can be a great experience year after year. However, fewer clubs are entering and a consistently a quarter of entrants call off in the first round.


  2. Nathan Flatman 19 October 2016 at 7:41 pm

    Diss couldn’t play as we needed 4 front row players in the squad of 19 according to the rules and due to injuries we didn’t have 4. Diss have been hit hard by injuries this season, which has meant players from the 2nds and even 3rds stepping up where possible. Its the first match we have conceded in a cup comp from my understanding so it was taken with a heavy heart. Full details about the shortage of front row players will be in this weeks Diss Express.


  3. Stuart Young 19 October 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Andrew, personally the cup competitions are about as popular as the Lemur and likely to become like the Dodo very soon. Unlike the times of the Pilkington Cup or similar there seems to be little rewards for Clubs and there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
    My Club has actively declined entry into “Regional” cup competitions whilst still competing in our sub county KO cup. The reason being it gives us the chance to play local opposition and drink them dry whilst having a good old ding dong!
    Unless the RFU or suitable sponsor provide a financial incentive Cup competitions are dead in the water. Make leagues all 14 teams down to level seven if clubs can’t fulfil they will suffer the penalty and subsequently be relegated the teams who can support this structure will play at their best level.
    The biggest issue currently is that of Clubs who provide financial incentive to bolster their teams.
    Andrew, you know how passionate about the game and I have only missed three league Saturdays since January 2003 and have a good feel about the grass roots game and also very close to the players

    Liked by 1 person

  4. spike40 20 October 2016 at 8:16 am

    The example suffered by Lowestoft just seems rude. However with 25% of the games being called off you can hardly call the game thriving in this environment – which was the focus of a previous blog. I wonder how related these two things are? Not having front row cover is a challenge no doubt and I guess in that case it’s better to concede a cup game than be in that position for a league match.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: A good weekend for England; a poor one for RFU Cups | A Rugby Life

  6. Anthony Bohncke 21 February 2017 at 5:43 pm

    Hi Andrew

    Do you know if the RFU cups will continue as they are even though we are going from the restructuring of the leagues?


    Southwold Rugby Club

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andrew 21 February 2017 at 6:37 pm

      I haven’t heard anything about changing the RFU Cup competitions since the RFU Council rejected the proposals of the Adult Competitions Review, so I would assume that they will continue as they are for the next season at least.


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