Big changes in United States rugby
During my time on The Roar, I have written a number of articles regarding the growth and development of rugby in the United States.
It would appear for the first time I may be writing about something negative occurring in terms of competition structures.
The Rugby Super League in conjunction with USA Rugby announced the disbanding of the Championship, dubbed the elite level of rugby in the United States, over its 16 year history.
The league has seen a steady decline over the past five or six years with team after team withdrawing as the expenses involved in participating the competition became too much for many clubs.
Yet, the competititon still it maintained its place until recently. A cog in the development machine lost. Or so it seems.
One of the major limitations for players in the RSL was the sheer lack of game time available within a strict structure, with many barely playing 10 games a season.
Far too few to develop talent to the level to provide the national team with the quality to compete.
So, where to now for senior rugby in the US and what is this silver lining?
Well, the RSL disbanding was actually in reaction to and in line with a complete restructure of the senior club structures within the USA.
As of next season (2013/14) divisions one and two will be structured into new geographical leagues and division three into more localised regional leagues. Part of the plan also allows for the emergence of a division four sometime in the future, creating greater depth in the club scene within the US.
In terms of the Super League most (not all) will participate in the new structures while those who choose not to will form their own schedules.
Each league will contain eight teams across eight individual leagues. The leagues will be then split into two distinct conferences, the National League (West) and the American League (East).
Each club will be required to play a minimum 14 league games with the top team from each league progressing to play off against other teams within their respective conferences to decide and conference winner.
The winners of each conference will then play in a final to decide the best team in the land. Simple enough to get one’s head around. All clubs will also be required to provide Sevens squads as well.
On top of this, a new cup competition will be established as the direct replacement for the RSL.
Dubbed the Elite Cup, it will initially contain the remaining seven RSL clubs plus Glendale.
Each will play three games before a final between the top two squads. In preceding years, the existing RSL teams will be replaced by the winners of their respective leagues and it will move to a home and away basis on top of the D1 structures.
Now to College Rugby.
The College Premier Division renamed D1A has experienced some radical changes with new conferences emerging everywhere.
Many teams have opted for alternative avenues and some interesting developments have occurred.
Early on I questioned the movement as a means to an end not an end itself.
It appears I was correct. Early on, it saw the establishment of the Ivy League, Sec and ACRL conference set ups.
Now we have seen the emergence of other traditionally based conferences such as the new PAC-12 and unofficial Big Ten conference, which have established themselves as entities with access to broadcasting facilities.
Another interesting development has been the establishment of the Varsity Cup. Set up by the likes of Cal, BYU and co. it appears to be looking to emulate the growth and success of NBC’s College Rugby Championship in terms of creating a viable commercial entity.
Time will tell if it is successful.
Things are realigning and developing at a frightening rate in the US and it’s hard to keep track sometimes, but still interesting to observe.
Elsewhere in the rugby world. Athletico Madrid has signed an agreement with CRC Madrid with CRC adopting Athleticos’ moniker and colours meanwhile Vigo Rugby has signed significant sponsorship deal with a Spanish Tech company.
Both clubs compete in the ever improving and professionalising Division De Honor in Spain. This has followed Conrinthians (one of the largest soccer clubs in the world) in Brazil establishing its own rugby wing.
And finally, The Black Sea Cup has expanded to include 12 teams in its second season with six coming from Germany, four from Belgium and two regional teams from the Netherlands.
This has effectively doubled its size and looks like a promising championship. It has room to grow with the possible inclusion of Polish clubs in the future.
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