Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Friday, May 13, 2011

U13: The reason for the panic?

One of the main questions that everyone is asking about the U13 announcement is - Why now? Why so suddenly? Why no warning (apart from a cryptic passing comment in a newsletter most people never saw)? Could be it this - Rugby union faces £1.1m funding reduction.

The latest survey of sporting participation has shown a fall in levels of participation and - as a result - rugby is going to lose money. Most of this loss will be on the male side of the game, but this is less of an issue as (male) rugby union in England is quite a wealthy game. Women's rugby, on the other hand - or, more to the point, the RFUW - is utterly dependent on the money it gets from Sport England. A reduction in funding will hit RFUW where it hurts - at the centre, where most of the money is spent.

The only good news is that the effect of funding reductions on the game at club level will be tiny - as only a tiny amount is spent there (see here to see where RFUW spends its money). The vast majority of RFUW's expenditure goes on various elite player initiatives - divisional rugby, Super 4s, TDGs, and - of course - the England team. There are the various Regional Development Officers - who all work incredibly hard - but given that they have a hugely broad job description, and that there are only about four of them, the amount of impact they can have on the average single club will be barely measurable. In fact the most significant and influential role RFUW plays at "grass roots" is the general promotion of the game - getting it at least occasionally noticed - which is all the work of RFUW's one part-time, but rather brilliant, press officer, Julia Hutton.

In fact there is a rather delicious irony here. Some of us have been moaning for years about how little practical support girls clubs have been given. We have pointed out the huge turnover of girls clubs every year, and the associated waste of knowledge, support and - above all - players, and the fact that RFUW did nothing to investigate it, never mind stop it happening. We've also been moaning for five years about the loss of girls in mini rugby, and the need to come up with something to keep them in the game. We complained about the effect of taking so many players out of the club game for regional rugby - only finally sorted out this season. We have spoken of the need for a broad based pyramid to support the top. And we've been ignored..

The reason was the RFUW took a concious decision long ago to concentrate on the development of elite players - future England stars - ahead of supporting the recreational game for the ordinary player. They never quite put it like that, but if you were not good enough to play for your regional team, or just plain not interested as you just wanted to play the game with your friends, then RFUW have made it plain that they were not interested in you.

The result was predictable. The huge influx of players following England men's success at the 2003 World Cup was asset-striped to find the elite, while the rest were allowed to drain away. The result is the development of a number of hugely talented international players and squads... and shrinking recreational player base.

And now that has come back to bite RFUW - because the loss of funding will hit that elite programme. Suddenly they have to find a way of getting player numbers up - or at least look like they are doing something. And the rest we know...

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