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Promises, Promises

Another witty piece by Sam Roberts

Double Dummy Scissors

What a time to exist. This last week has, amazingly, trumped much of what has come before. I mean, a man celebrated losing a general election by high-fiving a middle-aged woman’s tit. Politically, we are very drunk. Staggering left and right, eyes drooping, dance moves echoing around our body because we can still hear the music; deliriously chuntering to ourselves, oblivious to the amount of vomit on our suit. We should go home, but we won’t. The bus left hours ago. We are here and fucked. Shouting incomprehensibly at people holding hands. We have nothing but a dirty, heavy, nauseating hangover in our future. Better make this last.

And this piece has no political bias. Every way you looked was another person grandstanding; talking on tiptoes, trying to be heard over the others; promising you better and hoping to god they didn’t ever have to deliver. Promises is what got…

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A Small Piece About Time and Togetherness

Double Dummy Scissors

I have some questions for you. Would that Lions side that lost yesterday be able to beat Saracens? The Saracens that dispatched so expertly with Munster and then Leinster on their way to back to back European titles? With all their mutual trust and pack mentality. Brits’ feet would have found a way through at some point, the ball spread wide, Wyles in the corner, you know the drill.

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What about the Scarlets? That Lions side, who played together for the first time ever competitively, would they be able to cope with the rugby that saw the West Walians claim the Pro12 title in such style? We delighted at their flamboyant, length of the field, almost telepathic, efforts – James Davies to Scott Williams to DTH  – too strong for a scratch side like the Lions surely?

So, therefore, Stander and Itoje and Biggar wouldn’t have liked Exeter? The Chiefs…

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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.

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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.

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Council Member Briefing – July 2015

Briefing picMy latest Council Member Briefing can be downloaded by clicking the link below:

 

Council Member Briefing – July 2015

Adult Competition Review – Update

It is almost a year since I wrote about the RFU’s Adult Competitions Review (read about it here) which was subsequently passed by Council in June.  An update was issued to clubs this week but as internal club communications are not always as efficient as they should be I have published the information here on my blog too.

Read the Update here

The Update gives details of Cup competitions for clubs from Levels 5 to 10 with prize money available for the first time since the 2008/9 season.  And the money on offer isn’t insignificant with the Level 5 Cup paying clubs £1500 for competing in the pool stage and the first round of the subsequent knockout stage even if they lose all their games.  There are more payments for each of the following three rounds and the Cup finalists will earn an an extra £2500 each.

Even the lowest level Cup competition will see clubs that lose their first round Cup and Shield games be paid £300 with the reward for Cup finalists a game at Twickenham and a £1500 payout.

Travel allowances are much more generous with £200 being paid for round trips of between 50 to 100 miles up to £600 for trips of over 250 miles plus a contribution towards accommodation for the very longest trips.

At Level 5 the cup competition is compulsory which I know will not meet with the approval of all, whereas at lower levels it is voluntary.  This could prove a challenge as Cup competitions have become increasingly unpopular with clubs at lower levels, a problem I wrote about in 2012 (read the article here) but it may be that the lure of prize money and travel payments may encourage more to take part.

Have a read through the update and comments are as ever welcome either here on on Facebook.

Council Member Briefing – February 2015

Briefing pic My latest RFU Council Member Briefing and associated documents in PDF and Word formats can be downloaded by clicking the link below:

 

Council Member Briefing – February 2015

My blog in 2014 – a review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Eastern Counties adding value to NatWest RugbyForce

Every rugby club should sign up for this and clubs in Eastern Counties have a greater incentive than most. Click to read the whole article

Rugby World Cup Legacy for the East

RugbyForceThe NatWest RugbyForce programme for 2015 was announced in October with clubs that sign up being given the chance to ‘Get Behind England’ with a range of resources provided by the RFU, to attend free club development workshops and get £500 towards improving their facilities. Click this link to see what is on offer from RugbyForce.

These packages are only available to 350 clubs around the country and in Eastern Counties about 10 clubs will benefit.

But we think that all clubs that want to take part should have the opportunity to get these resources to make the most of the unique opportunity of having the Rugby World Cup in England next year.  So it has been agreed that Eastern Counties Rugby Union will supplement the RugbyForce programme by paying for any club that meets certain criteria to get the following benefits:

  • Be invited to workshops with a choice…

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