Op-Ed: PRO Rugby vs USA Rugby; Let’s All Calm Down

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NEW YORK, NY – So here we are. We are witnesses to a divisive war in the American rugby community. Having witnessed the Welsh Rugby civil war a couple of years back, I just want to say: Everybody calm the [bleep] down!

It is not easy to call for calm when the mobs are baying for blood and the court of public opinion is out of control. PRO Rugby supporters are attacking USA Rugby as a national organization out to settle a grudge. Meanwhile, USA Rugby supporters are seizing on this opportunity bury an axe in PRO Rugby’s back.

I want to start by reminding everyone that all we have going on here to date – other than USA Rugby grievances filed – are Steve Lewis’ suit to be heard in a NYC court and Paul Keeler’s California Labor Board filing… Until more/bigger lawsuits happen, we all should exhale… and we may be exhaling for quite some time, as glaciers and old props move faster than litigation. It could take months – or years – for us to really see what’s transpiring.

Yet, I have heard some salacious rumors regarding PRO Rugby and USA Rugby. I can’t/won’t mention them here because they are, well… rumors. The point is there will be no angels here. This whole thing has a feel of mutually-assured destruction about it and neither party will walk away with their reputation completely intact.

My colleague Matt McCarthy has been doing his best to provide coverage to both sides – and is taking flack from both sets of detractors – for his even-handed coverage. He has provided an interviews with PRO owner Doug Schoninger, Ohio Aviators’ Assistant Coach Paul Holmes and the intriguing piece with fired San Francisco Rush Head Coach, Paul Keeler. Add to that the exclusive release of the  USA Rugby Players Association letter.

The one side we haven’t gotten much out of is the USA Rugby side, whom have decided on a “no comment” stance for now.  USAR detractors are harping on that but let’s all take a step back and realize a few things: PRO Rugby is owned and operated by Mr. Schoninger, so he can act as he pleases and take advice from his lawyer. USA Rugby is a national organization and as such, it has to operate differently. The Board of Directors, led by the Chairman Will Chang, have to decide on a response and the best way forward in conjunction with CEO Dan Payne. Not to mention that a huge chunk of the problem is an agreement that occurred under the previous CEO, Nigel Melville. Mr. Melville is now busy working for the Rugby Football Union in England, so it is unlikely he’ll take focus off his current job to deal with a matter related to his previous job. That’s not an easy thing to explain to ones bosses.

Former USAR CEO Melville and Chairman Will Chang

So, this will take a while to play out. We are just at the start. It will be a bit ugly and it will potentially drag out, but again… let’s all calm down a tad. Remember there are 3 sides to every story. Each party’s side… and the truth. While we may not readily get to the truth, we will do our best to present you with all sides.

That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: @RugbyWrapUp, @Junoir Blaber, @MeetTheMatts, @Luke Bienstock, @Ronan Nelson, @Brian C Cole and @Declan Yeats.

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.

  • BillMast

    You can’t tell people to calm down when rent and bills are not being paid.

    • No, but as in sports, remaining calm usually translates into better play under pressure. It also may keep things from being said publicly that you can’t take back later.

  • Tony Ridnell

    Junior, this is an excellent summary and a well noted ‘call for peace’. Your comment about the USAR Board “led” by Will Chang is noted. This is a critical time for Chang to show leadership and earn his keep as the Chairman of the union. Perhaps you have seen some of my thoughts on the Board matter… They are going to have to earn my/our trust and confidence. I’m hoping. Again, my thoughts on PRO is that it is a symptom of a much bigger problem. This is the collective lack of ability on our board to hold the CEO to account, or at least add value in the process. If it could have been done with this group, it would have.

  • Twinkletoes

    There is always two sides to a story. Thank you for presenting both.

  • TomClayman

    This story/issue leads down so many dark alleys, but they all begin and end with Nigel Melville’s corruption and/or incompetence.

  • Nico Christo

    I hope the suddenly back silence means people are discussing. Rugby in America deserves it.

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