The Welsh Rugby Union has launched a ‘seasonal repositioning’ pilot with 59 clubs across Wales signing up to a trial involving more than 4500 players (u7s-u11s) at more than 5000 matches and festivals over the next three months (June – August 2018).
Following consultation with selected clubs and mini rugby volunteers, the WRU feels it is important to trial a shift in the mini rugby season (under 7s to under 11s) in order to gauge whether this move could lead to positive results on and off the field – perhaps increased in playing and volunteer numbers but more importantly, an improved outdoor experience, making rugby a more attractive and inclusive option for players and their busy families.
Mini rugby during British Summer Time will allow for more flexibility in mini rugby scheduling, enabling training, matches and some festivals to be played during the longer weekday evenings, which could free up some weekends. The lighter evenings could encourage more parent engagement in coaching, refereeing or other volunteering roles within mini rugby and other benefits could include increased revenue for clubs due to the 12 month usage and less need for clubs to hire indoor or all-weather pitches for training in the winter months.
The WRU has engaged pitch experts to work with the clubs who will host mini rugby during this trial period to advise on best practice for year-long pitch maintenance and the Union is keen to collaborate with other sports, not only in terms of sharing facilities but with a view to organising fun, multi-sport events which could create a more vibrant sports scene in Wales leading to more children and young people being engaged in healthy lifestyles.
A number of measures will be put in place to gain feedback from the participating clubs and assess the three month trial – in terms of player, coach and parent experience, club revenue, use of facilities and player and volunteer numbers. If deemed successful, mini rugby could be played between March 1 and October 31 2019.
The experiment will be trialled by pockets of clubs around Wales to ensure the demands on clubs with different geographical, cultural and economic profiles are taken into account. Certain clubs have been designated as host clubs for the summer while others are participating in festivals and matches but not hosting for the purposes of this first pilot season.
WRU Head of Rugby Participation Ryan Jones said,
“We know there is a place in rugby for everyone but it is vital we challenge all aspects of the traditional rugby model and broaden our appeal in order to ensure we provide a positive rugby experience for all which fits in with the demands of modern lifestyles.
“The seasonal repositioning trial will involve pockets of mini rugby teams from clubs in different areas of Wales and different social and economic profiles – from rural, farming areas and tourist destinations – where there has been a particular demand for this change – and more urban, highly populated communities.
“We have decided to go for the time of year which may throw up the most challenges such as playing rugby in summer holiday time, sharing facilities with other sports and 12 month pitch use. However, we have gained some key insight from the last three seasons of girls-only cluster rugby during the spring and summer months and the interest and feedback we have already received from some clubs leads us to believe there is an appetite for a new approach to the club game, particularly for the younger age groups, but we are open-minded about the obstacles we may encounter, both real and perceived.
“There is no magic wand, but it is vital we keep adapting and looking outside the box in order to keep up with ever-changing societal demands and ensure club rugby remains at the heart of our communities throughout Wales.”
Clubs who have expressed an interest in taking part in the seasonal repositioning pilot:
Abercarn, Bala, Bargoed, Beddau, Bedlinog, Blackwood, Blaenavon, Brecon, Bridgend Sports, Bro Ffestiniog, Brynamman, Cardigan, Caerleon, Caldicot, Carmarthen Quins, Chepstow, COBRA, Croesyceiliog, Crymych, Cwmgors, Deri, Dolgellau, Fishguard & Goodwick, Girlings, Gwernyfed, Harlech, Hafodyrynys, Haverfordwest, Lampeter, Llandeilo, Llanelli Wanderers, Llanidloes, Machynlleth, Milford Haven, Narberth, Newbridge, Newcastle Emlyn, New Dock Stars, Newtown, Neyland, Oakdale, Pantyffynon, Pembroke, Pembroke Dock, Penallta, Pencoed, Pontyberem, Pontyclun, Pontypridd, Pontypool Utd, Penybanc, Porth, RTB Ebbw Vale, St Clears, Treherbert, Tumble, Tycroes, Welshpool, Ystalyfera