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Seattle Saracens Women’s Club Unable To Defend Club Championship; Why USA Rugby is Right and Wrong
- Updated: March 16, 2017
The governing body for rugby in the United States, USA Rugby (USAR), has determined the Seattle Saracens Women’s program will be ineligible to pursue a third straight USA Club Rugby championship. The reason? Seattle does not play at least six matches against club competition in the United States. Currently, the Saracens play in the British Columbia Rugby Union’s (BCRU) Women’s Premier Division (WPD) not in a USAR sanctioned competition. In past years they have received waivers to play in the BCRU due to the lack of competition in the Pacific Northwest. That waiver was denied by USAR in December 2016 and after being told to schedule at least six matches with US competition, Seattle was unable to do so and have been deemed ineligible for the US club competition.
Why USAR is right
It’s no secret I agree with USAR’s decision to demand Seattle compete against US competition in order to be eligible for the USA Club Rugby Championship. I have hoped for years to see strong governance come out of Denver and finally they’ve done it. Imagine if an MLB team got a chance to go participate in the Korean Baseball Organizations playoffs. Maybe NFL teams should be allowed to compete for Canada’s Grey Cup or have NHL teams vying for the Gagarin Cup? By the way, I know what the Gagarin Cup is because it’s easier to find professional Russian hockey than women’s rugby on TV in the US, but I digress.
You may say it’s unfair. You may say USAR doesn’t have the right. Well, it falls well within the USAR’s capabilities as granted by rugby’s world governing body (World Rugby) to demand such compliance. I have provided the link for you to read the approved 2015 USAR bylaws, but to sum it up in laymen’s terms, sections 2.1 and 2.2 clearly spells out USAR can basically do whatever they want when it comes to rugby in the United States. The overall charter of USAR is basically to govern and grow rugby in our country. As for BC Rugby, the BCRU states, and I quote, “PURPOSE: To grow, develop and manage the sport of Rugby in the Province of British Columbia.” Notice no mention of developing and managing rugby in the United States. Seattle is essentially a Canadian team. Now, that is no fault of their own and Seattle should be allowed to participate in the Women’s Premier Division but they must focus on growing rugby in the US as well.
Seattle does a fantastic job growing rugby in the US by developing players…in Seattle. They grow and groom future Eagles and once in a while play clubs in the US but their focus is winning the WPD and the USA Club Championship; Seattle’s DII squad doesn’t even play in the Pacific North Women’s DII division, where there is ample local competition. Let’s face it…Seattle has gotten comfortable playing in their Pacific Northwest bubble while teams like Glendale, Twin Cities, Atlanta, Oregon Sports Union, New York, Berkley, San Diego, and District of Columbia deal with costs associated with participating in our nation’s premier league.
Why USAR is Wrong
This problem was ultimately created by USAR and now they’re making Seattle pay for it. The continuous approval of waivers set the precedent that Seattle need not look elsewhere for competition and gave them the sense of security playing in the Pacific Northwest against BCRU teams, where travel is easier and far less costly. Unless there is something not being reported, USAR failed as an organization to give Seattle the proper amount of time to realign their schedules after years of social conditioning.
That’s it. I totally agree with them in every aspect of this decision except the timing. Allow Seattle to compete this season, give them one calendar year to either begin competing in the WPL or schedule at least six US-based clubs for the 2017-2018 season and demand Seattle’s DII team play in the Pacific North Competitive Region. They are more than welcome to continue competing in the WPD if they like but the above stipulations must be met in order to compete in the 2017-2018 USA Club Championships.
Geography is Seattle’s problem but they still should have been playing US-based teams all along. Communication is USAR’s problem and they should have given Seattle ample time to adjust.
If we as a rugby playing nation are to develop the sport in areas where it’s not yet taken root, USAR must explain to Seattle why they are required to travel and play teams like Tempe, Belmont Shore, Santa Monica, Metropolis, Chicago, or Little Rock. Travel too expensive? If that’s the case and Seattle is unwilling to comply then an explanation must be given as to why it’s imperative they go out and clobber those DII clubs in the region in order to bring teams like Tacoma, Portland, Emerald City, and Boise up to the DI level.
Sure the scores are going to be lopsided, so are some scores between nations, but those beatings make the lesser squad better. Let’s look within our own borders at some women’s club rugby scores. How about Sep. 24, 2016, when Austin Valkyries played Dallas Harlequins and beat them 87-0? How about Sept. 17, Providence versus Burlington, 87-7. Sept. 10, Chicago North Shore 77-0 over Minnesota or fourteen days later when they thumped Wisconsin 98-7.
My point is this, this season Austin beat Dallas 87-0, next year maybe it’s 70-10, the year after that 65-20…the trend moves toward closer competition as Dallas gets better. If they don’t improve, teams should be relegated. It’s really simple and there are several examples around the globe to look to as guides
The Women’s Premier League
This entire issue brings me to a much larger topic that has bothered me for some time now and I feel is a far bigger issue than Seattle playing in the USA Rugby Championships; where is the support for the Women’s Premier League? Why isn’t USAR pushing clubs like Seattle, Chicago North Shore, and Austin into the WPL? Why isn’t USAR promoting and relegating the divisions with the ultimate goal being participating in the WPL? Where is the financial support and marketing for our women’s top competition? Where are the promotion and relegation standards that nearly every rugby competition in the world uses? Many of the Geographic Unions have them, Texas Rugby Union, for example, but where are the USAR and WPL standards?
The WPL is the bigger issue here. As the rugby community craves a professional men’s competition there seems to be little support for our domestic women’s competition that provides fantastic rugby and develops our women’s Eagles. This is a Women’s World Cup year and I’ve heard little about it; our women have won a World Cup, our men have yet to make it to the quarterfinals. Let’s give the women the support they need.
Instead of denying, let’s enable. I applaud USA Rugby for taking a stance, strong leadership is key to development but let’s make smart decisions focused on support, not punishment.
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