Statement Summarizing USA Rugby Congress Meeting

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Congress Statement to the Membership Regarding Congress Meeting, February 11th, 2017

Dear USA Rugby Members,

As your representatives to USA Rugby, we want to provide you with an opportunity to learn more about this past weekend’s Congress meeting so that you will be better informed about the discussions and decisions that were made in support of the game. The USA Rugby Congress is a representative body of the membership that meet bi-annually. It is comprised of elected representatives for Youth & High School, College and Club rugby, and ten International Athletes.

The role of the Congress includes serving as a liaison between the Board/National Office and the rugby community , receiving and reviewing reports from the departments within the National Office and actions taken by the Board, approval of any dues increases, the election and potential removal of Directors to the Board, approval of Bylaw changes and approval of any non-ordinary course transactions of the organization.

Typically, USA Rugby will provide to Congress a meeting agenda for approval that focuses on

issues impacting the membership along with status discussions from the various departments within the National Office.

An agenda was provided to Congress and amended prior to the Saturday meeting. Congress members scheduled a n unofficial pre-meeting and decided that the critical items must include:
1. Board Accountability
2. Financial Issues
3. RIM–The Rugby Channel
4. High Performance
5. 2018 RWC 7s
6. Strategic Plan
7. Gender Equality

The amount of critical issues constrained our ability to get all of the specific answers we desire,and limited additional questions and answers to only those topics on the agenda.
However, there were many positives during this meeting,which included the creation of a pathway for more transparent discussions about the operations of the National Office and a consistent line of communication to answer questions by the membership on an ongoing basis.

In addition, it led to the group decision to begin publishing Congress meeting minutes, even if
redacted, for public consumption. We’ll work with the National Office on storing the minutes in
an easily accessible space on the website. The revised agenda was presented to the Board. Will Chang, Chairman,began the meeting by calling for a completely open and honest discussion of the issues, and in turn fielded all questions over the course of the day, which was refreshing.

Board Member Rob King then led a discussion on the organization’s current financial issues, followed by a healthy question and answer session that focused on financial accountability and controls going forward. King assured the group that personnel and process changes will be made to protect the organization from internal and external contingencies, departmental overspending and to improve financial disclosures to the membership.

Furthermore, King explained that the Audit Committee will have a role in providing much more rigorous oversight and the National Office will be required to provide more regular and detailed financial status updates to Congress on a quarterly basis.

A dues increase vote and discussion was never proposed because the Board believed that increased costs to the membership for the failings of the organization’s financial practices was unacceptable at this point.This year’s National Office budgets (aside from High Performance) will be fixed to last year’s actuals. The High Performance budget will be reduced across all segments compared to 2016 actuals.

Congress members also questioned and noted concern about the disparity in the Women’s National 15s side budget to the Board during a Rugby World Cup year. The Board responded by pledging to increase funding to the program by more than $100,000 in preparation for this year’s Rugby World Cup (RWC) in Ireland

Chad Keck and David Sternberg, Chairman and CEO of RIM, respectively, provided a detailed discussion on RIM and The Rugby Channel. David Sternberg will now be the full-time CEO of RIM. The presentation focused on the purpose and structure of RIM, a financial summary including a five year plan and priorities for 2017. USA Rugby now owns over 75% of RIM, with other investors including the RFU, CSM, the Harlequins and other individual investors (five) owning the remaining shares. No current or former USA Rugby Board members own any shares in RIM or The Rugby Channel. Will Chang expressed the Board’s desire that if possible, USA Rugby would not seek additional investors or increase existing investor’s shares in RIM.

David Sternberg outlined that RIM is currently negotiating or discussing sponsorship deals with over 10 new companies in addition to existing partners.


Newly appointed General Manager for the Rugby World Cup 7s, Rosie Spaulding, provided a strategy and status update. Rosie also highlighted the Board’s insistence in negotiating a single venue that would feature both women’s and men’s competitions, unlike past RWC’s, where the competitions were hosted in separate stadiums.

Alex Magleby presented an informative High Performance update including funding of the National Teams. Magleby also highlighted how crossover is occurring between 7s and 15s, and the sharing of Men’s and Women’s side resources. Also discussed were HP pathways and educational and mentorship programs through National Team Coaches.

A discussion on professional rugby ensued, which unfortunately left many questions unanswered due to ongoing negotiations that prevented Board members and the National Office from commenting, at the advice of legal counsel.

Click for USA Rugby Congress Web Page

Congress then focused on gender equality and the need to prioritize the qual treatment,funding and experiences for all members, especially that of our National Team players.

USA Rugby CEO Dan Payne addressed the strategic plan and outlined how he will work with National Office Staff to finalize priorities and identify actionable items prior to its rollout.

Will Chang informed Congress that a companion business plan to the 2020 Strategic Plan is under development. Dates were unavailable for the release of either document at this time.

A member benefit and insurance analysis was presented by a Congress working group led by International Athlete Kevin Swiryn,which detailed the need for an increased value proposition from the National Office to the membership. It also included a comprehensive analysis of our current insurance policies,the potential for significant savings by changing the policy structure and by requiring all members to be primarily insured outside of USA Rugby. The plan is now under review by the Board and the National Office.

The final agenda item was Board accountability. Will Chang, addressed misinformation being shared on social media. Chang explained how conjecture negatively impacted the Board and the National Office Staff. Congress requested that the Board and National Office both communicate better when detailing finances, HP, the Strategic Plan and through the “State of the Union” address from the CEO to curb the spread of misinformation.

Will Chang requested a vote of confidence/no confidence in the Board before the end of the Congress meeting.Congress met in executive session and emerged with a strong vote in support of the Board of Directors. That ended the Congress meeting.

If you have any further or specific questions, please contact your regional Congress Representative. Due to confidentiality obligations, certain information presented at the meeting cannot be disclosed,but every member of Congress is available to discuss the topics addressed above as well as any others you feel are important.Contact information for Congress Members can be found here:

________________________

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About the Author ()

Matt McCarthy comes to RugbyWrapUp.com from their partner in the USA, MeetTheMatts.com. RWU and MTM feature a stable of diverse contributors, with coverage that is both serious and with a wink. Find him on twitter: @Matt_McCarthy00
  • FearfulFlanker6

    So they didn’t do anything? WTF?

    • Tobias The Great

      At least they are now getting it that they are being watched.

  • Aaron

    Hey guys…let’s post the minutes for everyone to see…but we need to ask IT how to do it…uh, same way as this statement.

  • Junoir Blaber

    The House of Cards is falling down. This does not look good for the USA Rugby Board. Real change is needed.

  • Will Watson

    I really don’t know much about USA rugby.

    As a rugby supporter I am always surprised that USA is not stronger. I totally understand that it is a minority sport in the USA but still gets a lot of support.

    I suspect that the teams need to play top opposition more regularly.

    Internationally Arentina have benefited from the Rugby Championship and the huge amount of their players playing weekly for and against the best in the world through Super Rugby have made them into a very well respected team.

    I feel that if the USA international team and players has that kind of exposure along with the right funding then a short time they would be in the same position.

    I enjoyed watching the PRO League last season and was hopeful of it developing. Again, there seemed to be good support.

    I genuinely wish that USA will push rugby as the more nations competing at the top level makes for a better game and world cups far more interesting.

    Sorry that I cannot contribute to the actual topic but thought I would put a rugby supporters view on things

    • Bah Humbug Hooker

      You made more sense then some of these pundits.

  • Tony Ridnell

    This is not a 100% accurate representation of what happened in that meeting (according to several that were in the room). I love this… “The Board responded by pledging to increase funding to the program by more than $100,000 in preparation for this year’s Rugby World Cup (RWC) in Ireland”, and immediately dispatched calls on cel phones to ask individual benefactors to help cover the shortage. You’ve heard me ad nauseum about Strategic Plan,… it is only with a plan with executable action items based on comprehensive audits (Club/Member, HP, and White Paper by current sponsor) that we can get on the road to any form of ‘sustainability’. It’s interesting that the USAR CEO is an afterthought in these notes. He RUNS the entire organization. Why isn’t USAR CEO on the RIM Board?
    The Congress, with less than 50% on conf calls leading up to the meeting, in general were not informed on significant portions of the subject matter (PRO Sanction, RIM, TRC, etc..) and generally not able to ‘connect the dots’ in terms of why we are in the situation we are in, financially, and structurally. I’d be interested to hear some definition of ‘misinformation’ on social media by the Chairman. I have now read the PRO Sanction agreement in full. It was supposed to be discussed at this meeting, and was tabled til the end at a very long day and did not get the attn. deserved. Of course the de facto explanation was “we are in potential litigation and can’t really discuss the details”. Anyone part of that sanctioning approval process (i.e. Board) should resign immediately. When that document gets published in full (which it will, but not by me), the rugby community can witness first hand this debacle.

    • Junoir Blaber

      Don’t you feel like a broken record by now?

      • Tony Ridnell

        Not at all. Gaining new content practically daily.

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