Thursday, 15 February 2018

There's Plenty of Competition - But What is the Health of the Grassroots Game?

We started off this weeks league update in pretty pretty much the same fashion as we have done over the past few weeks.  Double check the scores we have on the fixture list and then review the SRU league tables and admire how many Clubs are still actively involved in the three Championship races as well as the wider promotion and relegation battles.

Having a quick flick through our records and we're seeing probably the most competitive set of West Region leagues we've had over the past decade.  We're willing to guess as well that if we had records going back further, that they're the most competitive set of West Region leagues ever.

With plenty of competition at the top and bottom of each league, we should be looking at a great deal of interest in grassroots Club games.

However, as we dug into the reasons for some of the games being off at the weekend we were again reminded that all is not well with grassroots rugby in West Region.

Sure we had some weather related postponements, but we also had a number of Clubs unable to field teams, and not for the first time either. 

Whilst the weekends postponements add to the end of season congestion that some warned about when Clubs moved from 10 to 12 team leagues, there's a growing possibility that at least one Club will withdraw from the leagues.

Part of the fixture dilemma is down to the vagaries of the good old Scottish weather.  When we compare to last season, at this point in the calender, the competitive leagues season was as good as over in West 1, 2 & 3, with only West 4 suffering any sort of backlog.

Last year we had Clubs worrying about what they're going to do in March, April & May with no fixtures scheduled, whilst this season, Clubs will be worrying about whether they can cram in all their games by end May.

However, what's perhaps more worrying is the number of Clubs struggling to field a team in their bread & butter competitive league matches. 

In recent seasons we’ve had several Clubs withdraw from the leagues (McLaren, Clydesdale, Isle of Arran, Argyll & Bute & Glasgow Alphas), but thankfully this season, so far at least, we’ve not had any withdraw - but with Helensburgh, PSG and Lanark all having missed four games, we’ll need to keep a watchful eye on things.  (note: this is second year running where Helensburgh have struggled to field a team).

If we look to the reserve league things look even grimmer with Clubs withdrawing and numerous unfulfilled fixtures.  There's literally loads of 28-0 results recorded due to unfulfilled fixtures across each of West Reserve 1, 2 & 3.  In West 1, we have Carrick shown in the legue table as having played 15 games, but a review of the results show seven 28 nil results awarded against them.

So we’re interested to know, what’s the biggest issues facing grassroots rugby in West Region - is it facilities, is it lack of appropriate youth & schools rugby, or is something else completely different outwith the control of either Club or Murrayfield.

Also, let us know your thoughts on what impact Super 6 and Agenda 3 may have on grassroots rugby:
  • Qu 1: In what ways will strict amateurism help grow & develop rugby at grassroots level?
  • Qu 2: Will Murrayfields ambition of having fewer, but stronger Clubs help the game develop at grassroots?
  • Qu 3:
  • Qu 4:
At the Presidents Roadshows in Autumn 2016 that launched Agenda 3, it was said that Murrayfield would like to see Club mergers so we have fewer, but stronger Clubs.  However, if the grassroots game continues the way it has in the past couple of years, we will see substantial fewer Clubs without having to worry about the implications of mergers.

We'll collate all the comments we recieve, either here, on Twitter or Facebook, and pull a paper together summarise the issues and any possible solutions suggested.

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