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A Thought On Rugby in The USA

According to the analysis of the latest IRB statistics on the “Super Rugby Tips” blog, there are currently 1.4 million registered players in the U.S.A.

Coming originally from Wales, a country with a 100+ year history of playing the game, I’m kind of impatient for the sport to really take off here. Sure its popular, but it is certainly no where near Major League popular. Not even Minor League popular – mind you, being in the city that is home to a Minor League baseball team, the Dayton Dragons, that regularly sells out it’s 8000+ capacity stadium may skew that assertion, somewhat! There are pockets of support around the country that might maintain such levels of attendence, but they are few and far between.

When it comes to the domestic competition, the focus seems to be on the Territories. Whilst the basic premise of league play in the Fall and a playoff style championships in the Spring is a great set-up, I think we’d be better off with more focus on State-level championships in the Fall. Of course this, in itself presents problems, as a team in Cincinnati, for example, would likely prefer the short trips to Lexington and Louisville in Kentucky than cross-State trips up to Toledo or Cleveland. But the bragging rights to being the best in Ohio, would be great incentive to make those kinds of changes to a team’s travelling schedule.

There could still be a Territorial playoff system in place, but due to the window of opportunity for play, outside of the bitter Winters and broiling Summers that various teams have to deal with – most States encounter one or the other, if not both of these extremes of seasons – I really think it should be skipped for a seeded State Champ vs. State Champ setup.

Again, geography is a powerful force here, as it is conceivable that a team from Hawaii could be drawn to play a team in Maine, neither of which might be able to afford – maybe a “slush fund” from some large corporate sponsor(s) could be used to subsidize playoff travel? – or really want to put the time and effort into arranging – with most teams having an amateur, low-budget set-up it could be easy for a team, (especially one from a smaller State, where there could be less competition), to fall into a mentality of “What’s the point? If we lose we traveled all that way for nothing and if we win we might have to make another trip like this!”.

One way to offset this could be for the various governing bodies to encourage the use of the Spring seasons by non-playoff teams for travelling as supporters of their State Champion. Maybe this is a personal preference, though, as, finances allowing, I would happily travel to Alaska to watch our State Champion take on theirs, or take the road-trip from Dayton to wherever our State Champion might be hosting another. Of course, in another rugby fantasy of mine, that State Champion would be based in Dayton, but that could be a blog for another time!

 

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