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Offline backrowbandit

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2018, 06:18:05 AM »
If there were no cup competitions then players would get their free weekends and player welfare is improved.

This is exactly why Scarborough did not enter the cup this year. We assessed the season, our resources and the need for breaks and therefore did not enter the cup.

We did not want the humiliation of give a walkover for the first time in our history. I'm sure Brid in hindsight wish they had not entered.
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Offline Novocastrian

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #16 on: October 20, 2018, 09:51:48 AM »
All views my own etc.

Not expecting this to be universally popular, and it’s admittedly coming from the perspectives of player retention/recruitment and the lower half/two-thirds of the Leagues, but the structure of the season needs to change drastically if the slide in playing numbers is to be halted. Some imagination is required, alongside a recognition that maintaining the status quo of 14-team Leagues equates to taking the same option when something is clearly not working, a definition of insanity.

The days of most players playing every week between the start of September and early May have gone. The majority of people on this Forum and involved in running their clubs and the Game as a whole (another facet of the problem), played when this wasn’t the case and resent/can’t understand why this has changed. I’m afraid it’s time to embrace the horror. 18-30 year olds now have infinitely more distractions and demands on their weekends (including getting married & having Stag Dos during the season!) from partners, family and work.

It’s time for some radical, evolved thinking as to what Saturday Rugby needs to mean to appeal to existing players & watchers and attract new ones. The solution lies in drastically fewer league games below National League level. An unremitting diet of 26, 80-minute league games a year, with minimal season to season variation in opposition, out of the 30 weeks available is just too one-dimensional and out of date and leaves ZERO room for anything else once weather has forced rearranged fixtures.

At “Social Rugby” level, and the crucial point is where in the League structure you draw that line, 18 league games a year to give the season it’s basic structure is enough. The key to engagement lies in being creative with the balance of the year. A mixture of tours, mini-tours, friendlies, 3-way fixtures, long-lost local derbies, half-pitch tag tournaments, 10s festivals, open days to engage local communities, early kick-offs on International weekends, mixed touch tournaments, family days, yes maybe County Cups and even… whisper it, the odd week off; whatever floats your boat and gives players, wives, girlfriends, kids and families enough variety to make “Saturday afternoon down the Rugby Club” a more interesting, attractive and inclusive offer.

As I understand it, last time round, the argument against the reduction from 14-12 team leagues (Which was the RFU’s preferred choice and recommendation nationally, having spent a 6 or maybe 7 figure sum on a consultation, it was only a Yorkshire/Northern Cadre that dug their heels in and stamped their feet until the RFU capitulated) was the assertion that “we can’t afford to lose the revenue from those 2 home games.” Not my place to tell others how to run their clubs but I’d suggest that if that 2-game marginal revenue is that important, and particularly if that revenue is in envelopes going round a changing room below National League level, then you’re borderline unsustainable already.

It’s obviously not wrong, indeed it’s essential, that many clubs are upwardly mobile, and if, to this end, they want to pay players and have 26-30 League Games a Year to fund that then that’s absolutely fine. Aspirational clubs would still be able to force their way out of “Social” rugby and up the structure over a period of time if they wanted to, and could afford it. I’m speaking from the perspective of those clubs who don’t see themselves as the next Exeter, Doncaster, or even West Leeds, but want to perpetuate the playing of Rugby as a mostly social, recreational, enjoyable, amateur endeavour and provide the same to as many as possible who share that aspiration. There’s more of us than you’d think!

The crux is, where is the line below which smaller leagues might be appropriate? My feel is that its Y1 and down. Others will no doubt feel differently.

I’m also not naïve enough to think much of the above is going to be adopted quickly, if at all; but a reduction in League size in 2019-20 from 14 to 12 in Y1, and 10-team Leagues at Y2 and below would be a start.

One of the best posts I’ve ever seen on this forum.

I’ve talked about this topic many times on both this forum, the DN Forum and in person. Indeed, my dad and I spent an awful long time collating stats since the advent of league rugby to show the demise its had on most clubs in the NE. We presented our findings to Northumberland RU and i believe this has added fuel to the fire for the above meetings (I’m sure if we had more time, the findings would have been similar for the Lancashire clubs).

I really can’t be bothered with making my points over and over again, but as has been said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results”. Since 1996 we’ve seen the introduction of H and A fixtures and the leagues have slowly grown in size to which we now have 26 league games (and 30!!! In the National Leagues. Yet the PL only has 22?)
What has been the result? (I’m going to generalise here but my hypothesis is probably correct).

The vast majority of clubs now have fewer sides.
Games below 1st XV level are regularly cried off (25% in 2012. I imagine this is higher now)
Fewer people are now playing rugby than they did 10, 15, 20 years ago.
Players can’t and don’t want to commit to 26 ‘stressful’ league Saturdays a year. 

Can we reverse this trend?
I don’t know.
Will we reverse it by continuing to do what we’re doing now?
 Absolutely not.

It might generally be okay in yorkshire. I guarantee you’re the exception. Many counties up and down the country ARE struggling - and if you guys all want to dig your heels in again like last time, you’re not seeing the bigger picture. And it’ll be to the game’s detriment.

Offline backrowbandit

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2018, 10:50:52 AM »
Equating the reduction in players and teams with the introduction of leagues is a null hypothesis. ALL traditional team sports have seen a reduction in playing numbers regardless of the format, the league arrangements or the frequency of cups or friendlies.

The popularity or gyms, cycling, running etc.. coupled with team sports no longer being universally taught in schools are the largest contributors.

Having less rugby matches will lead to less rugby not more players.....!!!

The answer to anyone who thinks they are playing too much rugby is to play less...seems simple to me.
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Offline avinastella

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2018, 11:05:10 AM »
And with 11 clubs crying off cup matches when they accepted the invite ...how does that link to the league structure

Suggesting reduction in league games to accommodate a cup match is madness.
As BRB says. You want a week off, have one.
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Offline Red Horseman

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2018, 11:07:24 AM »
Totally agree about declining numbers across the whole team sports spectrum  -  BUT only as regards male team sports. The reverse seems to be happening in women's team sports. What are they doing and how are they doing it that men could possibly learn from, if anything?
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Offline backrowbandit

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #20 on: October 20, 2018, 11:32:17 AM »
Possibly because of in case of women's rugby cricket and football the starting base was near zero. Traditionally these were seen as men's sports and therefore when women began to play them, the growth rates will inevitably be rapid. 

Not sure about traditional women's team games...
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Offline Red Horseman

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #21 on: October 20, 2018, 11:40:49 AM »
Women's rugby, cricket and football all started in or around the 1890's, one game of football attracted a crowd of 10,000.
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Offline backrowbandit

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #22 on: October 20, 2018, 11:57:08 AM »
None were played in schools or clubs in any "mass" fashion until relatively recently. Indeed even now clubs without senior women's rugby teams far outweigh those which with them. This gives the opportunity for rapid growth.

Anyhow we're dancing on the head of a pin...we both basically agree.
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Offline Novocastrian

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #23 on: October 20, 2018, 11:58:17 AM »
A lot of this will go over your heads in regards to the clubs mentioned etc. There’s issues in Lancashire, Cumbria, Cheshire, Northumberland and Durham. There’s a reason these reviews are taking place.

REPORT TO NORTHUMBERLAND RUGBY UNION BOARD, AND COMPETITIONS COMMITTEE
How Northumberland (and Durham) rugby union clubs have fared from 30 years of league rugby

INTRODUCTION

It is perhaps fitting that this report is produced at the end of the 2017-18 season; the first bad winter for many years, and also a season in which a number of Northumberland clubs are struggling in their leagues.
This information was first collected during the 2016-17 season, but had not yet been reported upon. It is now very timely, with the potential for this report to provide a meaningful system of measurement for the Northumberland Rugby Union Strategic Plan (NRU SP), allowing comparison over time on the performance of Northumberland (and Durham) clubs in the national league pyramid. We are able to look at how 30 years of league rugby affected individual clubs, and also how the overall standing of the two counties has changed.
It should be made clear, that the views held in this report, are those of Graham and Chris Ward (both Novocastrians RFC), and do not necessarily reflect the views held by Novos as a club. We carried out the research after many, many conversations where we discussed how league rugby has affected the game in the North East on many fronts; how different fixtures are now compared to the playing of rugby both before and during the earlier years of league rugby, how fewer fixtures are played, and potentially how income and expenditure are affected by the requirements of league rugby.
We do hark back to an era – not too long ago, when club first teams had fixtures on every Saturday of the season, and where for most clubs, meaningful local friendlies took place. We make our own conclusions and recommendations to Northumberland Board and Competitions Committee.

METHODOLOGY

The inaugural league season was in 1987-88, when fixtures were played either home or away. In the pyramid of leagues that Northumberland and Durham clubs are part of, there were 12 leagues in that first season, through National 1, 2 and 3, Area North, North 1 and 2, North East 1 and 2, then D&N 1, 2, 3 and 4. The national leagues each had 12 teams; the rest of the leagues had 11 teams, with 10 in D&N3 and 8 in D&N 4. In total, there were 131 clubs in our pyramid.
There have been a number of restructures over the years, leading to frequent changes in the number of clubs in our pyramid. These changes mean that it is not straightforward in making simple comparisons over time as to how individual clubs have progressed.
Season 93-94 saw the introduction of home AND away games in the National League set-up (Nat 1- Nat 4).
1996-97, the season which saw the advent of the professional era, also brought home AND away games into the entire league structure.
We sourced most of the Rothmans Year Books covering most of the league seasons, until the start of computerised league records being held by the RFU. At 7 regular points across the last 3 decades, we plotted where each Northumberland and Durham clubs were in relation to the pyramid. Given the regular changes in structure / pyramid size, we decided that the best way to enable comparison was to allocate the actual finishing position a ratio.
For example, in a pyramid of 100, the top of the Premiership is 1/100 = 0.01, and the bottom of D&N3 is 100/100 = 1.0. A club halfway, i.e. 50/100 = 0.5.
In a pyramid of 125, the top is 1/125 = 0.008, bottom is 125/125 so still 1.0, but the team in 50th position, 50/125 = 0.4. The middle of the pyramid is now 62nd position.
Using the ratio at the 7 points in time, allows us to see where each of the clubs in the two counties are in the structure and whether they have moved up, down or stayed the same in relation to clubs in Durham and Northumberland, the North East, the North, and nationally, regardless of how many leagues there are, and how many clubs there are in each league at each point in time. The lower the ratio, the higher a club is up the pyramid.

RESTRUCTURES

Season 1990-91 saw the first reorganisation, just at National Level. This saw the top 4 tiers increase in size from 12 to 13. “Gosforth [sic] escaped relegation to Division 3 because there was none. The size of national divisions is increased for 1990-91, so Gosforth remained in Division 2” (Rothmans RU Year Book 1990-91). This was the first of many restructures which would have a knock-on effect throughout the league pyramid, where a number of teams who should have been relegated, avoided so.
This has been repeated on a number of occasions since (too many to mention), where teams have either been promoted or relegated as a direct result of changes in the pyramid, with the number of clubs in leagues increasing or decreasing, or the actual number of leagues changing. Similarly for Northumberland and Durham clubs, relegation when not expected can follow the movement of Yorkshire clubs into or out of our local D&N leagues. Most recently, at the end of season 2016-17, Blyth who had finished 3rd bottom of D&N 2 were relegated to D&N 3 as a result of Acklam moving back into our pyramid from Yorkshire, although geographically in Yorkshire. A significant number of Yorkshire clubs are, and have been in D&N leagues over the years.
These changes have affected the number of clubs in our league pyramid, hence the methodology outlined above, as we are not exactly matching like with like. Across the 7 seasons that form our analysis, our pyramid is as follows:
1987-88   131 clubs across 12 tiers
1991-92   137 clubs across 12 tiers
1996-97   143 clubs across 13 tiers
2001-02   107 clubs across 10 tiers
2006-07   116 clubs across 9 tiers
2011-12   122 clubs across 9 tiers
2016-17   123 clubs across 9 tiers

The various changes to league arrangements, have led to massive change in how club 1st XV rugby is organised, countrywide. In the inaugural season, with clubs playing each other either home OR away, clubs played a maximum of 11 league games; the majority played 10. Thirty years on, all league rugby is home AND away, and with variance of league sizes, there is now between 22 and 30 league games.


THE FINDINGS

TOP 50% OF THE PYRAMID, 1987-88
In the inaugural league season of 1987-88, Northumberland had 4 clubs in the top 50% of the pyramids; Gosforth (now Newcastle Falcons 0.168), Northern (0.313), Tynedale (0.405) and Alnwick (0.481), in that order.

Durham had 3 clubs in the top 50%; West Hartlepool (0.199), Durham City (0.29), and Hartlepool Rovers (0.42).
This point will be repeated regularly, that with the many changes to league structures, we are not comparing like with like. In that first season, there were 6 tiers above the North-East leagues, and Alnwick who finished 5th in North 2, were the lowest of the 7 D&N clubs who finished in the top 50% of the pyramid.

NORTH-EAST LEAGUES

Then came North-East 1 and 2, both of which contained 4 D&N clubs, then the local Durham and Northumberland Leagues 1-4.
Overall, there were 15 clubs from Northumberland and Durham who were in leagues above the D&N tiers; 7 from Northumberland and 8 from Durham.

DURHAM & NORTHUMBERLAND LEAGUES

Top of D&N1 that year (Blyth) were placed at 0.702 in the pyramid. In total, there were 40 clubs in the D&N leagues, of which 6 were from North Yorkshire (Acklam, Redcar, Whitby, Guisborough, Wensleydale and Richmonshire). In all leagues that season, there were 17 Northumberland clubs and 32 Durham clubs.

Whilst there are a number of individual club stories to tell, and with 7 points in time across the 30 years to look at, it is perhaps a direct comparison of where the Northumberland (and Durham clubs) finished in 2016-17, which gives the most immediate comparison of like with like.

TOP 50% OF THE PYRAMID, 2016-17

From 7 clubs in the top 50% of the pyramid in that first season, there were just 5 clubs who finished in the top half in the most recently completed season. In order, they were Newcastle Falcons (0.065), Darlington Mowden Park (0.268), Blaydon (0.309), Tynedale (0.366) and Billingham (0.488).

From Northumberland, the Falcons and Tynedale have remained stable, but Northern and Alnwick dropped out. Very interestingly for Durham, all of the previous 3 in the top 50% have dropped out, replaced by 3 clubs who have made significant strides up the leagues.

ABOVE DURHAM & NORTHUMBERLAND LEAGUES 2016-17
With restructures, there was now only 1 league between the National leagues and the D&N Leagues; North 1 East. With 5 clubs from Northumberland and Durham in this league in 2016-17, the numbers playing above the D&N league structure had now reduced from 15 (in 1987-88) to just 10. Previously 7 Northumberland clubs (1987-88) there were now 5, and previously 8 Durham clubs was also now 5.

DURHAM & NORTHUMBERLAND LEAGUES 2016-17
Top of D&N 1 in 2016-17 (Northern) were placed at 0.683 in the pyramid (0.702 in first season). As with that first year, there were still 40 clubs in the 3 D&N leagues, including 4 from North Yorkshire (Middlesbrough, Redcar, Whitby and Richmondshire). In all leagues last season, there were still 17 Northumberland clubs, but 29 Durham clubs, down from 32.


CHANGES FROM 1987-88 TO 2016-17
There are some clubs from both counties which have seen improvements in their standing in the pyramid; for some very significant. There are however, far more clubs which have seen their standing deteriorate, again for some very significantly. By using the ratio of a club’s standing in the pyramid at different points, we can show the percentage change +/- for each club.
6 Northumberland clubs have improved their standing: Falcons (10.3%), Tynedale (3.9%), Percy Park (16.1%), Medicals (8.3%), North Shields (7%) and Gosforth – who reformed in 1996-7 (21%).

 All of the other Northumberland clubs have seen their standings decrease: Northern (37%), Alnwick (11.1%), Morpeth (6.9%), Novos (15.4%), Blyth (18.4%), WB Rockliff (10.4%), Ponteland (8.7%), Ashington (14.5%), Seghill (21.1%), Wallsend (10.3%) and Prudhoe & Stocksfield (1.3%).


 In Durham, there are similar differences in standings. The most significant improvements are:
Blaydon (29.4%), DMP (51.8%), Billingham (39%) and Consett (11%).

The most significant deteriorations are: West Hartlepool (38.6%), Durham City (36.9%), Hartlepool Rovers (34.4%) and Gateshead (who also merged with North Durham - 18.2%).

There will be many and varied reasons for what has happened to each club over the 30 years. Without passing comment, it is noticeable however that where the biggest changes have happened, for many of the clubs (predominantly Durham), the spending of money in pursuit of league status has been a significant factor.

2017-18

As we write (16.4.18), the season is drawing to a (very late) close, due to the severe and prolonged winter. As with all seasons, clubs continue to move up and down the structure.

Both Newcastle Falcons and Tynedale have again had good seasons; Newcastle will have their highest finish since winning the title in 1998. Fingers crossed, Alnwick will be promoted from North 1 East; Morpeth have also had a good season in this league. In D&N 2, WB Rockliff are still in with a chance of being promoted in 2nd position, however their league season will continue until May 12th.

These are the good news stories for Northumberland. Yesterday, it was confirmed that Northern (and West Hartlepool) have been relegated from North 1 East. It looks like Percy Park need to win both their last 2 games if they are to avoid the same fate, but even this might not guarantee their status.

In the next league down (D&N1), only 4 of the 14 teams are Northumberland clubs, and currently they are all in the bottom 5 positions. Whilst Redcar (a Yorkshire club) are already relegated, a minimum of 1 Northumberland club will be relegated. Depending on what happens in North 1 East and any possible sideways moves to / from Yorkshire leagues, another Northumberland club could also drop down. Gosforth, Ponteland and Medicals are all at risk.

There will be 1 Durham club promoted from D&N1, and depending on how the play-off against Yorkshire 1 goes, potentially a second. The promoted club(s) will come from Durham City, Barnard Castle, Consett and Westoe.

Under a possible scenario of Alnwick being promoted from North 1 East, and only 1 Durham club being promoted from D&N1, then North 1 East will have only Morpeth and the Durham club as local clubs in the league; the other 12 will be from Yorkshire. That would mean that only 8 Northumberland and Durham clubs were in leagues above the D&N tiers, 4 from each county. A very sad situation. Should this occur, Alnwick’s nearest away game of 13 will be at Billingham. Morpeth too will have very difficult and expensive travel commitments. Truly, they will both be geographically challenged (we will come back to this phrase later).

There will be many different views about how to read league standings, and at what level clubs want to be playing their league rugby. What these figures show however, is that overall, since the inception of league rugby, there has been a significant erosion of the overall, relative strength of Northumberland (and Durham) clubs.

Having this information, what do we want to do with it, if anything?

HOW CLUB 1st XV (and junior teams) RUGBY HAS CHANGED
Prior to, and during the early years of league rugby, virtually all clubs would have 1st XV fixtures on every Saturday of the season. Before the introduction of leagues, matches might have been classed as ‘friendlies’ or as ‘merit table’ fixtures. Additionally, for part of this period, Northumberland County also played Senior Cup fixtures midweek. The matches that most of our clubs used to have, included many long-standing, traditional fixtures. It was common-place for clubs to play all of their fixtures on any given day, against the same club. For example, Morpeth v Novos might have 3 games on at Morpeth (1st, 3rd and 5th XV), and 3 on at Novos (2nd, 4th and 6th XV). Both clubhouses would be full for many hours after the games, with many players and supporters spending money over both home and away bars.
The tables below, show Novos’ completed 1st XV fixtures from the season before, and the first season of league rugby. Our fixture list is now incredibly different - and didn’t we do quite well back then – possibly something to do with Jim Pollock joining the police in 1986, and coming back to Novos from Gosforth!
Season 1986-87               Season 1987-88         
Seghill   44   12   W      Seghill   26   6   W
Tynedale   12   9   W      Tynedale   3   10   L
Horden   13   13   D      Northern   4   34   L
Carlisle   23   13   W      Ryton                L   6   0   W
Hartlepool   25   16   W      Stockton           L   10   9   W
Nth Durham   16   0   W   Hartlepool   27   21   W
Ripon   13   3   W      York                   L   10   4   W
Northallerton   22   7   W   Ncle UniversityL   16   12   W
Penrith   7   9   L      Beverley           L   15   13   W
Scarborough   44   3   W   Penrith   15   6   W
Winlaton   10   7   W      Barnsley           L   16   4   W
Blaydon   11   6   W      Selby                 L   6   3   W
Ryton   23   0   W      Winlaton   13   7   W
Percy Park   21   7   W      Ripon   10   6   W
Medicals   52   3   W      Darlington   7   3   W
Stockton   9   14   L      Medicals   15   13   W
Ashington   17   3   W      Ashington   13   14   L
Currie   17   10   W      Gateshead Fell   16   16   D
Morpeth   10   13   L      Morpeth   12   14   L
Westoe   12   9   W      Westoe   18   14   W
Redcar   16   4   W      Gosforth   10   9   W
Rockcliff   22   9   W      Morpeth   9   14   L
Berwick   15   11   W      Old Hymerians L   16   7   W
Durham Univ   16   12   W   Wigton   23   10   W
Gosforth   4   12   L      Percy Park   34   7   W
N/cle University   25   6   W   Durham Univ   10   4   W
Redcar   13   0   W      Horden   16   6   W
Gateshead Fell   4   15   L   Alnwick   12   20   L
Darlington   9   16   L      Westoe   13   13   D
Sunderland   9   7   W   Carlisle   15   27   L
N/cle University   19   7   W   Pocklington   L   29   7   W
Northern   10   29   L      Blaydon   16   12   W
Leodiensians   3   4   L   Pontefract     L   13   13   D
Seghill   38   11   W      Ashington   7   9   L
Mowden Park   38   13   W   H'pool Rovers   23   17   W
               Wasps II   16   32   L
               Leodiensians   52   0   W
               Seghill   22   9   W
               Mowden Park   23   6   W
               Redcar   15   9   W

For season 2017-18 for Novos, our 1st XV fixtures included 1 warm-up game, the 26 league fixtures, 3 cup dates, and 1 friendly between Christmas and New Year. 31 fixtures arranged for 37 Saturdays. It was common for there to be 38 1st XV fixtures per season, then cup matches.

As the number of league fixtures has increased, fixtures and numbers of games for most clubs has changed significantly. With rugby union being a winter sport, there is always the possibility of increasing numbers of league fixtures being postponed.  This has led to the need for a number of Saturdays after Christmas to be designated as ‘league free’ weekends; basically kept free for any re-arranged fixtures following a postponement. This has been the first winter for many years when this has actually been required in great numbers. To our knowledge, it is unusual if not rare, for any friendlies to be arranged on the league-free Saturdays.
Players’ attitudes have also changed with time. There is strong evidence that players now look for the league fixtures to come out, and then make alternative arrangements for non-league weekends, when invariably there are no 1st XV fixtures at all. This is perhaps difficult to understand for the older rugby players amongst us who wanted to play every Saturday. However given the intense nature of league rugby, it is perhaps understandable?

Example. On 24th February 2018 (originally scheduled as a league-free weekend – 6 Nations), Gosforth lost 123-0 to Westoe in a re-arranged fixture. Gosforth could only select a 1st XV squad from 17 players across the whole club; they wanted to fulfil the fixture so as not to be deducted 5 points in the league system and an increased risk of relegation to D&N2.

So far, this report has concentrated just on 1st XV fixtures and league standings. However, as most people reading this report will be only too aware, there has been considerable change (for the worse) at all levels of club rugby. In 2014, the RFU published their wide-ranging Adult Competition Review. That report will again be well known by those reading this report. Rather than going into any detail on it, we include this segment as it relates to the playing of all club rugby and significantly includes some very pertinent information on Morpeth RFC.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2018, 12:00:08 PM by Novocastrian »

Offline Novocastrian

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #24 on: October 20, 2018, 11:59:08 AM »
Continued:

4. Findings and recommendations – league and cup rugby 2014 RFU Adult Competitions Review (ACR)
i. The landscape
4.1 By way of overview, it is apparent that the profile of club competition has changed markedly since the advent of the leagues 25 years ago – and also, more broadly, since the arrival of professionalism in 1995. The game has increased its physicality and intensity and, as a result, the attritional effect of playing has become more marked. Feedback has consistently remarked that the impact of this has been felt in a number of ways:
• Higher up the leagues, playing squads have become larger and more fluid to offset the likely loss of players to injury during the season
• Lower down the leagues:
o Better players are being lost to the attractions of higher-level rugby / the need to maintain larger squads, and the promise of material reward
o Less committed players are being lost to the risk / fear of injury, and the inability or reluctance to train harder to offset that risk
o A wider pool of players is required to field one team. The combined effect has been less rugby played, and a loss of teams within the competition structure as a whole “The number of teams run by junior clubs is, in many cases, much reduced with some clubs who used to turn out six or seven teams now running only three. Some of this is due to the economy and competition from other sport but some is due to paying players.” Brian Moore Daily Telegraph, 2 January 2012
• At all levels playing careers are shortening, with players now less likely to continue in the game beyond their late 20s than in previous years
 
These findings are true of all clubs. Again at Novos, we used to field 7 teams. Until recently we had struggled to put 3 teams out. Things are improving however as we now regularly have 4 teams playing, as well as an occasional Vets side. From knowledge, we also know that lots and lots of local clubs are struggling with overall playing numbers, and some have difficulties at times to field a second team.

Conclusions
How senior men’s rugby union is organised in this country is now completely different to how it was when league rugby was in its infancy. Top tier rugby is almost a different sport to that played by the vast majority of players. The ‘genie is out of the bottle’ for competitive rugby played in the professional era, and we cannot envisage a situation where the higher leagues change. Finances are now one of the main considerations not just for the very top teams, but also those aspiring to climb the leagues. Indeed, the RFU ACR noted comments from many clubs in the middle tiers, that more league rugby was very important to them, providing sponsorship, entrance charges and bar revenue.
This report has provided a brief but objective demonstration that for some Northumberland (and Durham) clubs, league rugby has offered the opportunity to play at a higher level through promotion. However we have also seen that for a higher proportion of clubs in both counties, our 1st XVs are now playing at a lower comparative level. Additionally, the overall number of games being played throughout clubs, whether league, merit, cups or friendlies has massively reduced.
Surely the main measure of how our clubs are doing, is the level at which our 1st XVs are playing. As we have already shown, in that first league season, there were 15 Northumberland and Durham clubs playing above the D&N league tiers. That was down to 10 in 2016-17, and could be as low as 8 next season. Even as recently as 2011-12, there were 13 of our clubs above that level (including Team Northumbria).
Whilst there will be many reasons behind the general decline, we firmly believe that clubs in Northumberland, and a good proportion of those in Durham are ‘geographically challenged’. Has our relative remoteness, and distances travelled (exacerbated by H&A fixtures) played a significant role in the reduced league standing of Northumberland (and Durham) clubs? Are our counties able to sustain more than 10 clubs playing league rugby above the D&N leagues?
We deliberately haven’t mentioned representative rugby. However both of our counties have appeared in 2 County Championship Finals in the fairly recent past. Northumberland won in 1981 and lost in 1995; Durham won in 1989 and lost in 1994. With the professional era, senior county rugby clearly doesn’t have the same attraction that it once did. What effect has there been on the ability of Northumberland and Durham to compete as the majority of our club sides have gradually slipped down the league pyramid?
We would imagine that as with Novos, for most Northumberland clubs one of the main sources of income is bar takings on match days, where home fixtures of whatever level will provide more income than away games. It is not uncommon for us at Novos to have Saturdays where all games are played away from home. For some clubs, bar income through the season is essential to them surviving the summer. Collectively, we need to be increasing the number of games being played, reversing the trend of many, many years.
To summarise OUR views, league rugby in its current format is detrimental, both to the league standing of the majority of clubs in Northumberland and Durham, and also to the overall state of our clubs and the sport in this region. Something must change to ensure the future of the sport in the far north-east of England. What exactly those changes might be, we do not know. However, as with the RFU ACR, nothing should be off the table, in order to increase participation in senior men’s rugby, both the number of active players, numbers of teams, and the number of fixtures fulfilled.  There needs to be less league rugby at the lower levels (1st XV AND below) and less travel, with increased opportunity for meaningful local friendlies / merit games; the challenge is how to achieve this.
We can take a steer from the RFU Regulation 13, specifically 13.2.4 a and b:
13.2.4 a)
(viii) at Level 7 in the North Division four leagues each comprising 14 Clubs; (D&N 1 must have 14 clubs)
(x) at Level 8 and below such number of leagues comprising such numbers of Clubs or teams as have been approved by the Committee. (D&N 2 and below, we can organise locally?)
13.2.4 b)
(iii) at Level 8 and below 1st XV, 2nd XV, 3rd XV teams etc., may, subject to Regulation 13.2.4(b)(iv) below, be permitted to play together in the leagues with the consent of the Clubs, Constituent Bodies and Divisional Organising Committees involved; (iv) teams from the same Club shall not be permitted to play together in the same league;
There are precedents in other areas of the country;
13.2.4 a)
(vii) at Level 7 in the London & South East Division and Midlands Division eight leagues each comprising 12 clubs; (presumably this was voted for by those areas, the North must have voted to keep 14?)
Solutions could perhaps include reduced league sizes at D&N tiers (2 and below), or retaining the same league sizes but playing only home or away? Based upon the information in this report, can we revisit the decision to keep leagues at 14 at level 7? What might meaningful local friendlies look like? What might merit tables look like to include most if not all club sides, of all levels?

RECOMMENDATIONS
1   For Northumberland Rugby Union Board and Competitions Committee to receive this report;
2   Through the NRU Strategic Plan, consider this report and its methodology as a practical means of measuring how our clubs perform each season, and over time;
3   NRU Board to use this information to consult with Northumberland clubs, and with Durham Rugby Union about the state of rugby union in our 2 counties, especially in respect of the reduction in clubs playing league rugby above the D&N tier;
4   Give consideration to a club summit for all clubs in Northumberland and Durham; present these findings, and seek solutions to address the future of our game;
5   As with the RFU ACR (2014), please keep everything on the table; discount nothing.

Graham Ward, Chris Ward, Novocastrians RFC (our personal views)
16.4.18
(Graham Ward will be away on holiday for the May General Committee meeting)

?
APPENDIX A      Base figures for Northumberland clubs
Club   1987-88   1991-92   1996-97   2001-02   2006-07   2011-12   2016-17   Difference
                       
Newcastle    0.168   0.124   0.091   0.056   0.078   0.098   0.065   0.103
                       
Northern   0.313   0.379   0.497   0.579   0.716   0.631   0.683   -0.37
                       
Tynedale   0.405   0.394   0.392   0.29   0.379   0.287   0.366   0.039
                       
Alnwick   0.481   0.518   0.489   0.542   0.733   0.705   0.593   -0.112

Morpeth   0.565   0.577   0.552   0.514   0.647   0.664   0.634   -0.069

Novocastrians   0.618   0.613   0.811   0.841   0.819   0.803   0.772   -0.154

Blyth   0.702   0.657   0.755   0.813   0.887   0.811   0.886   -0.184

Rockcliff   0.709   0.693   0.748   0.822   0.853   0.836   0.813   -0.104

Ponteland   0.718   0.839   0.853   0.86   0.741   0.779   0.805   -0.087

Ashington   0.725   0.701   0.636   0.617   0.862   0.795   0.87   -0.145

Seghill   0.74   0.745   0.909   0.888   0.974   0.984   0.951   -0.211

Percy Park   0.779   0.788   0.566   0.636   0.681   0.59   0.618   0.161

Wallsend   0.832   0.876   0.881   0.757   0.802   0.885   0.935   -0.103

Medicals   0.839   0.847   0.79   0.804   0.905   0.738   0.756   0.083

North Shields   0.924   0.883   0.783   0.748   0.793   0.893   0.854   0.07

Prudhoe   0.954   0.978   1         0.918   0.967   -0.013

Gosforth         0.958   0.673   0.776   0.754   0.748   0.21

Team Northumbria                  0.689     







APPENDIX A      Base figures for Durham clubs
Club   1987-88   1991-92   1996-97   2001-02   2006-07   2011-12   2016-17   Difference

West Hartlepool   0.199   0.102   0.077   0.374   0.612   0.508   0.585   -0.386

Durham City   0.29   0.358   0.546   0.626   0.664   0.639   0.659   -0.369

Hartlepool Rovers   0.42   0.423   0.608   0.654   0.655   0.721   0.764   -0.344

Gateshead   0.55   0.599   0.601   0.682   0.698   0.68   0.732   -0.182

SS Westoe   0.588   0.679   0.643   0.523   0.509   0.385   0.691   -0.103

Blaydon   0.603   0.562   0.483   0.308   0.371   0.254   0.309   0.294

Stockton   0.626   0.438   0.406   0.551   0.767   0.713   0.74   -0.114

Ryton   0.672   0.737   0.769   0.692   0.759   0.787   0.789   -0.127

Darlington   0.733   0.76   0.692   0.411   0.466   0.697   0.829   -0.096

Horden   0.763   0.708   0.587   0.608   0.672   0.73   0.724   0.039

Winlaton   0.771   0.825   0.804   0.71   0.845   0.861   0.862   -0.091

D Mowden Park   0.786   0.73   0.657   0.299   0.431   0.467   0.268   0.518

Hartlepool     0.794   0.781   0.825   0.729   0.931   0.869   0.781   0.013

Bishop Auckland   0.802   0.723   0.797   0.869   0.94   0.853   0.837   -0.035

Sunderland   0.809   0.774   0.713   0.776   0.707   0.771   0.846   -0.037

Consett   0.817   0.766   0.832   0.701   0.785   0.82   0.707   0.11

Seaham   0.824   0.81   0.923   0.972   1   0.926   0.976   -0.152

North Durham   0.847   0.832   0.839               

Hartlepool BBOB   0.855   0.942   0.944   0.963   0.948   0.975   1   -0.145

Houghton   0.863   0.891   0.93   0.738   0.871   0.943   0.943   0.08

Billingham   0.878   0.898   0.902   0.645   0.724   0.582   0.488   0.39

Seaton Carew   0.893   0.854   0.867   0.832   0.897   0.844   0.902   -0.009

Wearside   0.901   0.92   0.951   0.897           

Chester le Street   0.908   0.869   0.86   0.879   0.957   0.967   0.959   -0.051

Darlington RA   
0.916   
0.752   
0.888               

West Hartlepool TDSOB   0.931   0.818   0.664   0.81         0.96   -0.029

Washington   0.939   0.985   0.979               

South Shields   0.962   0.905   0.874   0.944   0.983   1   0.894   0.068

Barnard Castle   0.97   0.861   0.846   0.785   0.914   0.828   0.699   0.171

Jarrovians   0.985   0.949   0.972   0.916      0.959   0.984   0.001

Civil Service Durham   0.992                     

Newton Aycliffe   1   0.934   0.993   0.935      0.934   0.911   0.089

Sedgefield      0.956   0.937         0.951   0.878   0.078

Hartlepool Athletic      1   0.965   0.981   0.966         

Durham Police      0.964   0.986   1           

Shildon      0.993      0.991           

West Hartlepool Amateurs         0.907           

Offline backrowbandit

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #25 on: October 20, 2018, 12:09:56 PM »
Summary... the current situation basically works very well for Yorkshire clubs - and therefore are happy with it.

The current situation  does not work well for  Durham or Northumberland and therefore they want to change it.

Conflict is inevitable.
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Offline avinastella

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #26 on: October 20, 2018, 12:23:18 PM »
One of the biggest issues i read about regarding clubs up in the DN Leagues is travel. They seem to constantly moan about it.
Stockton seem to moan if they have to travel to the town boundary, let alone beyond it.

What also stands out is the lack of ethics and morals of (most) the clubs within Yorkshire but playing in the DN Leagues with regards to travel and their obligations.
It's a pretty nailed on bet that they will give a last minute walkover in the Cup Comps if drawn away. That is nothing to do with excessive matches, but simply can't be ar**d with no thought to the future implications of their actions.

Some of the DN clubs give walkovers in the National cup comps. Again, invited to play but cry off at last minute if they don't like the odds.

Remember, these cry offs are 1st team games, not weekend wobblers extra XVs.

Down in Yorks 4, comments suggest the majority (?) of the clubs would love to play more games but the current structure denies them this.

The issue over the hills and the dark lands is mainly regarding the travel to Cumbria. I have to say, understandably so for some of the clubs. So, not the number of league games.

With the evidence of the DN leagues, replacing league games with cup matches will be a pointless exercise - they don't turn up.
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Offline Red Horseman

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #27 on: October 20, 2018, 12:52:34 PM »
I don't know how much more evidence is needed to convince someone up the food chain that cups are a complete anachronism in this day and age.
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Offline Novocastrian

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #28 on: October 20, 2018, 01:16:31 PM »
Avina. I’ve not said National cup games is the answer.


Offline avinastella

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Re: RFU North Review
« Reply #29 on: October 20, 2018, 09:19:35 PM »
Avina. I’ve not said National cup games is the answer.
But teams in your leagues don't turn up for County Cup games.
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