USA Super League Rugby At Cossroads

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2012 Super League Winners – NYAC Rugby Club w/ Head Coach Bruce McLane

Blaber

West Ghana, New York – Last time we discussed The Varsity Cup, a College Championship formed by and for the premier collegiate rugby programs in the USA. Today we look at Super League Rugby and it’s championship that The Varsity Cup is using as a foundational blueprint.

We won’t get into the similarities and differences of the two competitions. We wanna focus on the crossroads that Superleague finds itself in.

Bruce Mclane, the Head Coach of  the Super League Rugby Champion NYAC (and friend of RWU),  wrote a heartfelt article in Rugbymag.com about the need for the Super League. McLane made a very compelling point: There must be a place for the best domestic players to play.

Brief History: The USA Super League was founded 16 years ago. It was formed by the top rugby clubs in the country to try and create a higher level than Division 1 and guarantee more quality matches and higher quality teams. It was acknowledged by USA Rugby but not supported financially, which has been an obvious problem. It has weathered the storm despite short-sighted decisions such as voting against the membership for the Glendale Raptors (Rugbytown, USA) due to the proximity to Denver and Aspen. But the number of Eagles that play in the  Super League, as well as potential Eagles, make it an important entity. It clearly serves an important purpose for the USA Rugby community.

Yet teams have left in significant numbers. Look at the number of teams that have left Super League over the years:

Philly Whitemarsh
Washington
PAC
Charlotte
Boston Irish Wolfhounds
St. Louis Bombers
Kansas City Blues
Gentlemen of Aspen
OMBAC
Belmont Shore
Olympic Club
Santa Monica
Utah Warriors
Chicago Lions

The Super League regular season is in the spring. Some players play for D1 clubs in the fall and Super League teams in the spring. Many of  the aforementioned teams left because of cost, player eligibility and the fairness of a player playing Super League one week and then being in its playoffs the next. USA Rugby clamped down on the matter.

The result was a 9-team format comprised of NYAC, Dallas Harlequins, Denver Barbarians, Old Puget Sound Beach, San Francisco Golden Gate, Boston Rugby Club, Chicago Griffins, Life University & Old Blue (NY), fighting to play more games but limiting the cost. Unfortunately, the current model is not sustainable. USA Rugby is caught in a tough spot because it has limited funds and it is tough to find funds to fund such a league. Super League itself has had trouble securing sponsors.

A potential solution may need be the regional all-star team format –  like the provincial model used by Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and others. The players play for the their clubs in the fall and spring, then with the Super League in the summer. If individual clubs want to compete against regional All-Stars, then so be it.

However, the key for Super League Rugby to survive lies with securing sponsorship. Perhaps an envoy should circle the wagons around Indiana University RFC Alum… Mark Cuban.

Mark Cuban at Indiana University RFC Banquet… Allegedly.

That is it for me. You can find us on the Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page or on Twitter @JunoirBlaber and @RugbyWrapUp, respectively. And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.

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About the Author ()

Born in Osu, Accra, Ghana, West Africa, Junoir Blaber is a rare commodity; while most Ghanians eat, sleep and dream Soccer (football), Junoir is all about Rugby. A self-proclaimed Rugbyologist, he has been involved in Rugby as a ref, coach, administrator and player since Columbus discovered Ohio. His useful/trivial rugby knowledge qualify Blaber as RWU's Senior Correspondent & known in rugby circles as The Rugby Rain Man. He can also be found moonlighting for our American partners at MeetTheMatts.com.

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