As you know since returning to New Zealand I have added to a superficial knowledge of most unions, a close knowledge of development in Oceania and Asia.
In addition I have paid close attention to the standard of play in the lesser unions who make up the membership of World Rugby.
Especially in the less affluent unions the standard of play has not improved and funding for development has not borne improved results on the field of play.
There are some exceptions that have occurred in Sevens. But these have been in affluent unions who are able to sustain a development programme.
I believe funding is given to improve coaching and officiating which should have resulted in improvements in the playing of the game but it has not.
The reason for this reflects the situation in the lesser unions.
The situation is one in which the focus of the game is internal within these unions. Domestic competitions result in a high standard of competition in which many secondary schools, clubs and universities participate, but this is not reflected in the union’s standard of play internationally and in the retention of players at open grade level who make themselves available for national teams.
In addition talented players who have overseas contracts do not make themselves available for the national team as they are told that, if they do, their contract will be cancelled.
The reason for poor play and players dropping out is the the lack of international 15-a-side games and 7-a-side tournaments. Only by increasing the number of these will a rugby “public” be attracted to “live” games and to TV giving the union something they might be able to sell to supplement their finances.
The funding used for training does not result in greater attendance at national team games because they play too infrequently to attract a crowd, to attract loyalty.
Funding for training also creates an accountability issue in unions and time has to be spent auditing the unions to make sure that the funding is spent for their attended purpose. It would seem that once funding is allocated the rugby union can spend it as it sees fit. Often those administering and governing the union have little interest in playing, coaching and refereeing. The governance of many unions is based on the “prestige” of being in the position and at the top of a hierarchy. They also get satisfaction by getting their own way.
I conducted a planning exercise for a union that lasted more than a week in which I canvassed the views of anyone and everyone involved in rugby who was keen to contribute. The draft copy of the planning document was subjected to scrutiny from all those who contributed at evening meetings. All were pleased at the opportunity to contribute and to be part of a consensus that took the union into the future.
All it took was an election and an erratic, self centred egoist to become the chairman for the plan to never see the light of day. It was replaced by what the chairman wanted and this changes monthly. Those who contributed are disillusioned and the union staff don’t know where they stand. Some have left.
The solution to accountability and to attracting people to play, coach, officiate and attend the games is to create a demand by increasing the number of games and tournaments.
Rather than funding development funding used for games meets this need and accountability is created as World Rugby will be able to directly fund travel and accommodation. In fact World Rugby would be able to provide both of these needs and, through economies, make funding go further.
Increased games will create a demand for improved, qualified coaching( a prerequisite of funding) and officiating and, by leaving this up to the unions they will force them to implement a development programme that will recruit but, more importantly retain players in the game as the union will have a worthwhile programme of 15’s games and 7’s tournaments in which they can represent their country and aspire to improved results and improvements in the standard of play.
In addition the union can make demands of coaches and officials to become educated and qualified should they seek to be part of the international competition be it sub-regional, regional or fully international.
The current situation has a group of players who do make themselves available training for months before they play either games or attend a limited number of tournaments.
When they do play they breach the player fatigue regulations by fitting 2-4 games in 3-5 days.
Through funding by alumnae secondary school rugby is strong. The problem arises in the appointment of the coach who, not being a teacher, has as their sole source of income the coaching of the team.
The alumnae demand frequent success not in the way the team plays but on the score board, which is difficult in a 2 horse race each playing day in the domestic season. They know little about the game judging performance by results.
The coaches feel threatened by coaching courses that offer them alternatives and options. This results in them imposing their view of the game on the team as well as overtraining the players. The drop-out rate can be as high as 70% when the players leave school.
The reason I am making you aware of this situation is that it is a reality in most of the rugby playing world. Little progress is being made in the quality of play and the numbers retained in the game.
I am sure you will find a lot in what I have said to be the case in many parts of the rugby world.
Feel free to pass it on.