This subject was debated passionately at Friday’s RFU Council Meeting following the survey undertaken by Ipsos MORI. While both Tracy and I have no issues with the integrity of the survey, those who completed it and notwithstanding that the recommendation to Council from the Community Game Board (CGB) was that the suspension of the introduction of the new structures should be lifted, both Tracy and I voted against the proposal for the reasons mentioned below. The proposal was however passed with the voting 27 For, 25 Against and 5 Abstentions. Due to the constitution of the RFU all Council members vote on every motion put forward even if they have no direct interest in or affect from the proposal and the vote was swayed by the non geographic bodies such as the armed services, universities etc. We therefore feel that this will continue to run and we will see further action resulting particularly from the clubs who have aligned themselves to the so called Northern Action Group (NAG). To our knowledge we have only 1 club who is within this group being Scunthorpe.
I should also add that although I sit on the CGB, there was no 3 line whip and we were free to vote on Friday as we wished to. At the CGB meeting on Thursday I did make it clear that I would be voting against notwithstanding my earlier support for it as I’d had more time to reflect upon the proposal, the survey and comment from clubs locally that would be affected.
Our reasons for voting against can be summarised as follows:-
The survey showed that higher percentages of players, officials and clubs were happy with the current structure compared to the proposed structure. Given that this was a player centric proposal in that area 67% were happy with the current structure whilst 60% were happy with the proposed structure;
Midlands Divisional Organising Committee (MDOC) organised a straw poll of all clubs in Midlands 1 (East and West) who presently operate 14 team leagues. They received 14 replies of which 12 wished to retain the present structure;
Scunthorpe have made strong representations to Tracy and I and while we do not necessarily agree with every point they make, we do believe that by increasing level 5 to 8 x 12 clubs would take away the current step that is there for talented players to prove themselves at a ‘Regional’ level before possibly making a step up with the same club or another to the National leagues 1 and 2. Every club we speak with acknowledges how big they find the step up to the next level and we believe that this intensifies the higher up you go;
Finally and most importantly, we do not believe that the implementation in its present form will make the slightest difference to the retention of players in the game and that there are many other areas that we need to look to, such as u21 and u24 competitions for example, that can aid transition and retention.
If anyone wishes to speak with Tracy and/or I on any aspect we are happy to do so.
Mike Waplington & Tracy Edmundson