Is there a future for RFU Cup competitions?
19 October 2016
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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.