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Home > News > Changes to Reserve League Rugby
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12
JUL

Changes to Reserve League Rugby

Changes to Reserve Leagues

Introduction

In conjunction with the Scottish Rugby Council, Championship Committee and Reserve League Committee the Board of Scottish Rugby has decided to implement changes to reserve team rugby for season 2013-14. The principles outlined in this paper are designed to improve reserve team rugby by implementing a simpler structure that will provide more frequent and appropriate fixtures for clubs.

Background

There has been a worrying decline in reserve team rugby over the past few seasons. Although the numbers of teams has decreased only slightly, it is the number of times that these teams are playing that is of most concern. In season 2012-13 only 53% of reserve league matches were played.

Following discussion with the Reserve League Committee the main reasons given for this low completion rate are; weather-related cancellations and clubs unable to raise teams. Weather-related postponements due to unplayable pitches are a factor every season for rugby in Scotland, with reserve team fixtures more regularly affected due to lower standard second XV and third XV pitches which are more susceptible to being waterlogged, frozen etc. The Reserve League Committee has also reported an increasingly worrying trend over the past few seasons of clubs being unable to raise teams, particularly for away fixtures.

On consultation with clubs, a decline in player commitment has been cited as the main reason for clubs being unable to raise reserve teams. Player attitudes to rugby have changed with players now not as committed to playing and training every week throughout a season as in the past. Societal changes such as more flexible working arrangements over evenings and weekends for both players and partners are a contributing factor for some. This can also have the knock-on impact of child care requirements for evenings and weekends.

People now have more choice on how they spend their leisure time with many lower commitment options for social fitness related activities e.g. 5-a-side football, fitness classes etc. With the season stretching beyond the traditional seven months duration, from September to the end of March, this further tests player commitment particularly for away matches where significant additional time is required for travel.

There is also a viewpoint that mismatches in the standards of teams in a league has a negative impact on clubs’ efforts to fulfil fixtures. Far too frequently when teams are due to travel to a league leader or stronger team they cancel the fixture rather than play and suffer a significant defeat.

The change in player commitment is corroborated by the player registration system over the last few seasons which display an increase in the number of adult players without a significant increase in the number of adult teams. In some cases there are ratios of up to 50 players per club team.

This season there have been issues with the reserve leagues where a regulation change designed to encourage teams to play rather than award a forfeit has been a practical disaster when combined with the above weather and player issues. Unfortunately this created a large backlog of fixtures which has resulted in the Reserve League Committee having to award results and sanctions as teams became unable to fulfil fixtures before the end of the season. This proved very unpopular with the clubs and the regulation is currently being reviewed for next season.

Changes to Reserve Team Rugby – Season 2013/14 – July 2013

Introduction

In conjunction with the Scottish Rugby Council, Championship Committee and Reserve League Committee the Board of Scottish Rugby has decided to implement changes to reserve team rugby for season 2013-14. The principles outlined in this paper are designed to improve reserve team rugby by implementing a simpler structure that will provide more frequent and appropriate fixtures for clubs.

Background

There has been a worrying decline in reserve team rugby over the past few seasons. Although the numbers of teams has decreased only slightly, it is the number of times that these teams are playing that is of most concern. In season 2012-13 only 53% of reserve league matches were played.

Following discussion with the Reserve League Committee the main reasons given for this low completion rate are; weather-related cancellations and clubs unable to raise teams. Weather-related postponements due to unplayable pitches are a factor every season for rugby in Scotland, with reserve team fixtures more regularly affected due to lower standard second XV and third XV pitches which are more susceptible to being waterlogged, frozen etc. The Reserve League Committee has also reported an increasingly worrying trend over the past few seasons of clubs being unable to raise teams, particularly for away fixtures.

On consultation with clubs, a decline in player commitment has been cited as the main reason for clubs being unable to raise reserve teams. Player attitudes to rugby have changed with players now not as committed to playing and training every week throughout a season as in the past. Societal changes such as more flexible working arrangements over evenings and weekends for both players and partners are a contributing factor for some. This can also have the knock-on impact of child care requirements for evenings and weekends.

People now have more choice on how they spend their leisure time with many lower commitment options for social fitness related activities e.g. 5-a-side football, fitness classes etc. With the season stretching beyond the traditional seven months duration, from September to the end of March, this further tests player commitment particularly for away matches where significant additional time is required for travel.

There is also a viewpoint that mismatches in the standards of teams in a league has a negative impact on clubs’ efforts to fulfil fixtures. Far too frequently when teams are due to travel to a league leader or stronger team they cancel the fixture rather than play and suffer a significant defeat.

The change in player commitment is corroborated by the player registration system over the last few seasons which display an increase in the number of adult players without a significant increase in the number of adult teams. In some cases there are ratios of up to 50 players per club team.

This season there have been issues with the reserve leagues where a regulation change designed to encourage teams to play rather than award a forfeit has been a practical disaster when combined with the above weather and player issues. Unfortunately this created a large backlog of fixtures which has resulted in the Reserve League Committee having to award results and sanctions as teams became unable to fulfil fixtures before the end of the season. This proved very unpopular with the clubs and the regulation is currently being reviewed for next season.

Changes to Reserve Team Rugby – Season 2013/14 –

As detailed already, there are significant issues facing reserve team rugby that need to be addressed immediately to allow our game to develop. The following changes will be implemented for season 2013/14 to improve and simplify the structure of reserve team rugby with the aim being to increase the number of games being played.

We will introduce smaller leagues based around a three-tiered approach. This will take into account the differing needs of reserve team rugby, which range from national competitive leagues at the top, preparing players for 1 XV rugby at the highest domestic levels to players who just want a local social game of rugby with little commitment or preparation. Regulations will be adapted to match the needs of each tier e.g. more stringent for the top competitive tier and more flexible at the other end.

Smaller ten team leagues will be more acceptable to players’ commitment levels allowing for weather-related postponements; a later start to allow clubs to get better organised (e.g. students back); and allow free weekends where traditionally it has proved difficult to get teams to play (e.g. over the festive period and Scotland international weekends). This will be combined with some relaxation of regulations around player numbers, front row requirements and replacements below the top tier.

The three tiers will be as follows:

Tier 1 – the pinnacle of reserve team rugby where objectives are focussed on team and player preparation and competition. This will be structured with two ten team leagues playing rugby on a national basis. This will be implemented for the start of season 2014/15.

Tier 2 – comprises of two regional leagues of ten teams in the East and West regions. In the North and Midlands districts they would continue with their model of reserve teams playing in the lower first XV leagues which appears to be working well.

Tier 3 – the objective is to provide playing opportunities on a social basis. Clubs will be provided with a fixture card at the start of the season with no formal league. A merit-based system would be implemented for clubs who wanted to progress to tier 2 by qualifying for a play-off against the bottom teams in tier 2 (e.g. number of matches played, player numbers, results etc).

The above structure is designed to give more frequent and appropriate reserve team rugby through simplified and achievable playing structures. Clubs have the opportunity to supplement their fixture programme, if they wish, by arranging friendly fixtures or organising local or regional cup competitions at the end of the season which work well in some regions.

These changes reflect current trends in reserve team rugby and we must all work together to ensure that rugby at this level improves. Further details on the reserve leagues and structures including the regulations for each of the three tiers will follow in the next fortnight. If you have any comments on the above changes detailed in this paper please email them to shona.stott@sru.org.uk in the first instance.

Scottish Rugby will also continue to pilot some social rugby playing opportunities based around teams turning up at a specific venue for a number of shorter matches played over a few weeks in better weather. These participation-focussed models are designed to cater for the less committed rugby players or players who have drifted away from the sport. In summary, rugby activity that combines the principles of convenience, fitness and a social element.

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