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:
Boston Irish Wolfhounds
St. Louis Bombers
Kansas City Blues
Gentlemen of Aspen
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.