A Call For Summer Rugby

If there was one single change to be made to Scottish Rugby that would benefit it more than any other, I think it would be changing the amateur sport (right up to premier club level) to being a summer sport. Yes, there would be logistical difficulties; but none of them any more insurmountable than those the sport faces just now. But the benefits would far outweigh the difficulties.

Just for the moment, leave the pro game and international game largely the same i.e. a season that runs from September to May; with Autumn Internationals and 6 Nations tournaments roughly in the same block of time as at present. But move the amateur game, to being a sport that runs from March to September/October. Start the season with a month of 7s tournaments (April). Fitness and skills are worked on over that month. Then play the 15s league in one solid block through May, June, July, August – the benefits are a consistent week by week calendar, with the game played in the best of the weather. Then finish the season with some cup tournaments in September.

Then the amateur game closes for the winter.

Players at the top end of the club game would then be free to go and do some development training with the pro teams, without having to fit in club sessions and games. The vast majority of the rugby community would be free from playing and coaching responsibilities, so would have time to watch, support and follow the pro teams and the international side. At the younger end, schools and youth players would play in the better weather – you could have a Sevens seasons for schools in the Spring; and a 15s seasons for schools in the Autumn. Again, no youngsters are being forced out into cold, wet weather. Youngsters can work on their skills in much better weather, conditions much more conducive to skill development. The elite youth players could be doing some specialist training over the winter in regional indoor facilities.

The difficulties? The arguments often touted are competition with cricket and athletics.

Really?

Is that any greater than the competition with football in the winter?

Another one is holidays. There are probably just as many amateur players who disappear for a fortnight at some point over the winter as over the Summer. The weather and festive period probably causes as many lost player hours as a summer holiday or two.

Looking at creating a season that maximises enjoyment for players and supporters, and a structure to the game that makes the professional and amateur parts of the game, complimentary to one another, rather than competitive against each other, for a small resource pool.

Why don’t we take a risk?

17 comments on “A Call For Summer Rugby

  1. Donald Peddie on

    What wouldn’t I give to stand on a touch line in warm sunshine watching rugby on solid ground. But how does it work. My interest is u18 and youth rugby. The season couldn’t start till after exams are over. Early June.
    All summer kids wil be away on holiday. Workable if you are a big club and have reserves but if your club can raise a team but no more what do you do?
    I don’t want to be negative but how would it work?

    • Allan on

      Rugby league in England makes it work, cricket everywhere makes it work, the world doesnt shut down in the summer you know!

    • Ad on

      I agree with Donald. I’m all for it, but maybe not at School level, that should really be done during term time. It wasn’t that long ago when I was playing school rugby – I doubt if half of the guys would have turned up if it was over the summer. If fact if remember correctly there was some summer pre season stuff, and probably about 5 guys turned up.

      Yes, better and more attractive playing conditions might draw kids in, but I think it is outweighed by the fact a lot of people are away in the summer and it takes a lot more organisation. It was easy for everyone to meet up at school and walk down to training at the end of the day, even convince people to who were going to wimp out to go. School rugby was about having fun with your mates – we never really cared about the weather.

  2. Kev on

    The positives completely outweigh the negatives. The number of new children and young adults playing (and staying in) the game could be massive. The skill level will quickly improve at all levels. Families would return to the game (and to training sessions). We wouldn’t be competing with football for players OR spectators.
    Training/matches never cancelled. Pro game attendances in winter increased,…….

  3. James Maclean on

    It’s been almost 20 years since professionalism and the game here has been on a steady decline. When it reaches the point that prominent rugby figures and the press propose Scotland being ejected from the 6Nations, something has to give.

    Summer rugby would help everyone in the game. In order for it to happen the clubs must vote for it, however I don’t think the argument and benefits have been highlighted for them. Summer rugby would actually boost their attendances for 3 reasons – better weather, a carnival atmosphere and no competition for supporters from the pro clubs (and vice versa). For instance instead of choosing between Edinburgh and Accies, supporters could go to both.

    It would also give emerging club players a better platform to show off their abilities. New Zealand run a similar system with the ITM Cup preceding the Super Rugby season.

    Something drastic has to be done to change the grass roots of the sport, and it’s clear to me that no amount of new semi-pro leagues or restructures will do the job, so at this point we’ve got very little to lose and a lot to gain.

    • Gordon on

      The main problem moving the Pro12 to summer wouldn’t be in Scotland but in Ireland. One of the major reasons they do so well is because GAA are mainly summer sports. In all likelihood the Irish teams are subsidising us Scots with the interest their teams generate, cutting into this could be a massive blow to the league.

  4. Angus on

    Well presented and I had never considered just the amateur game changing. It sounds like good sense to me

    I assume this has been proposed at the highest level?

    If so then what is the reasoning against it?

  5. Jp07 on

    The reasoning against it is that it is different, it requires change. Irrelevant of its merits. I despair. Imagine the carnival atmosphere of a May barbarians game weekly. Almost heaven

  6. Cammy on

    I’d be all for this.

    My thinking is that summer rugby would be a great opportunity for the introduction of a semi-pro regional comp. Maybe split the country into 8 teams and play a tournament similar to the ITM Cup (as suggested above.) This would take the lesser stars of our pro teams and the better amateur players from our club teams and give us a better idea of who could maybe make the step up and win a pro contract/deserve to keep it. That would mean that our clear international players (like say Denton) would be free to rest and prepare for the summer tours, our clear pro players (like Grant) would get a full rest as they would not be required to take a step down, periphery players (like Pyrgos and Bennet who aren’t receiving the game time they need) would get a good competitive run out over a short 14 week period and of course the leading lights of the amateur game that we think deserve a chance at the big time (Moody is better placed to explain this) would get an opportunity to prove themselves.

    Bonus would be that the clubs, who are frequently and some would say justifyably, reluctant to change a system that has operated for 100+ years.

    Makes sense but it probably will not happen.

  7. Kev on

    I think we need to grow the base and get our foundations strong before we talk about having a smaller club pool. Of course that could be District selection at the end of the “domestic” season and they could play in a league along with the Irish Provincial A teams, B&I etc

  8. Phoenix on

    The idea of it is great, who doesnt prefer the end of season festival of rugby on the hard ground. The reality is that alot of the pitches are owned by schools who would not let rugby be played during the cricket/athletics season.

    The alternative may be to have a winter break. For our national league club this year, we have had 2 competitive league games since 20 December. The games are loaded in the front end of the season and only a handful post christmas. A second preseason may be a route to explore with part 2 of the season kicking off in March but you will of course lose momentum.

    The idea that amateur players will play a full season and then district games at the end as well as a 7s season and a job is unworkable in my opinion. It may suit the guys who are on course to play rugby professionally but the standard amateur player will need a break where he can get away from rugby.

  9. Kev on

    Would seperate 7’s from this thread. 14 -18 club games + the top players playing “district” which could be 6 – 8 matches? Season would be shorter than it is now. I dont think many rugby players want to start training in mid June and playing to the beginning of May as some do now

  10. BR on

    What ever the negatives…..

    Getting training and game time consistently through a youth players development is irreplaceable.

    My rough calculation is that due to bad weather/unplayable pitches in the 10 years from minis to U18 a Scottish player involved for school and club will miss approx. 70-80 matches.

    If Welsh, Irish, English, Italian kids aren’t missing this experience then all other things being equal we’ll bring through fewer less well developed players.

    There are always pitches in summer, even if you have to look at unconventional options. In Glasgow we were losing less than 10% of our squads to cricket and the SRU ‘summer rugby’ a few years back that extended into May for end of season festivals was a big hit with the kids.

    All the discussions about structures and additional pro clubs etc
    are rendered academic unless we can increase firstly the number of young players in Scotland and secondly the amount of rugby those players participate in.

    If there is a single better idea to increase participation and playing time than playing rugby in the summer I’m all ears otherwise it’s time to get it done

    • B Archie on

      BR – you hit the nail on the head. Other nations aren’t more naturally talented, or even (IMHO) better coached. No, a developing Scottish player has materially less time on the pitch because of cancellations caused by the idiocy of having our season when the Scottish weather wipes out fixtures. You made the point bettter, but I posted that my 10 year old has already lost a whole season due to winter weather. It’s lunacy. And that leaves aside the point that playing when your fingers aren’t blue might just help passing skills.

  11. Ruairidh Campbell on

    Completely agree. In January alone, I was playing in the two worst games (weather concerned) I have ever been involved with (probably not helped with being on the wing). But the thing was that even though we won both the games, hardly anyone actually enjoyed the game. If the SRU want to keep the younger players actually interested in the game, then they should stop making them play in the worst conditions. I remember my time in the minis and everyone’s favourite part of the season was the March/April time of year when the ground was hard, the quality of rugby was improved and people actually enjoyed themselves!

  12. Angus on

    A mate of mine has just gone to coach in Romania and they are doing pre season which means they have a Norther Summer season.

    Which other countries already play in the summer?

  13. B Archie on

    My boy is 10 and started minis 3 seasons ago in Glasgow . He has missed the equivalent of A WHOLE SEASON due to weather cancellations. Yes a third of each season is wiped out due to the weather – mostly waterlogged pitches but some frost, some just too cold to risk hypothermia (literally).
    Sorry, but only a fool would deny that a move to summer rugby is the only way to save our game – newsflash, we have the WORST weather of any nation playing rugby so lets use our brains and play when it doesn’t wipe the fixtures. This leaves aside the fact that no skills get developed when shivering kids play with numb fingers on heavy pitches.
    Holidays ? Cricket ? Don’t make me laugh – if your kid likes rugby he’ll love playing in better weather and will upskill quickly.

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