Dear members of the Texas Rugby Union, Red River Rugby Conference and others vested in rugby,
As the Congressman representing the TRU/RRRC senior clubs to USA Rugby, I wanted to reach out before our next meeting on July 28-29. Below are the topics up for discussion and my thoughts on them. Congress has a very limited scope as outlined in the by-laws (link below). We are your eyes and ears and receive reports from the organization to report back to you; we approve the dues structure; we ratify the Nominating Committee’s nominees to the Board of Directors; we can remove members of the Board; we approve by-law changes; and we approve major changes to the business (such as the formation of RIM).
- Dues increase: This topic most immediately affects the membership, so I placed it first. Dan Payne will propose a cost of living adjustment to help resurrect some programs and fund new ones. This is NOT a reflection on the overspend last year. The member dues go towards member services, not high performance/national teams. This includes liability and health insurance (the policies were heavily scrutinized this year and should continue to improve year-on-year), the home office non-HP employees, the national club and collegiate championships, etc. The increase will be spent on youth and collegiate programs, such as Regional Development Officers and the women’s NCAA initiative. Though the senior game isn’t directly seeing an increase in spending in our department, it is an investment in 4-6 years down the road when the increase in HS and collegiate membership hits our clubs. More importantly, it is consistent with the USAR Strategic Plan (link below) of which I wholeheartedly support and therefore will support a small (~$5) increase. In addition, you should be getting more member benefits such as discounts, etc., though the details are still being worked out. (thank Ron Watson for his hours of effort on this!) Please note that the $90 players pay to USAR is made up of two parts: $45 USA dues & $45 TRU dues. The TRU dues are independent of this increase, so attend the TRU AGM or talk to your divisional reps to find out what’s happening.
- Board elections: The USA Rugby Board of Directors have been very publicly criticized if you have been following national level news outlets and blogs. Six months ago, the Congress recognized that the previous CEO, the Board and even ourselves have made several marginal to poor business decisions. We spoke out to the new Chairman, Will Chang, and new CEO, Dan Payne, who listened and promised more transparency and action. Based on that meeting, I voted that I had (some) confidence in the Board. In the past 6 months, we have seen very little of what was promised, and there are a lot of anger from the membership and Congress.
- The two nominees are second term director Chad Keck and former Colorado Lt. Governor Barbara O’Brien. Chad, in particular, has been under large public scrutiny since he was instrumental in the creation of RIM and he was privy to the PRO Rugby contract that saw a successful first season but abruptly stopped in what may become a heated legal battle (see Rugby Wrap Up interviews below). Barbara’s son played rugby and she’s has been a spokesperson for the sport ever since. I believe that new ideas and perspectives are necessary in the Board and intend to vote as such.
- In addition to the new members, the current members are under intense scrutiny to include a formal grievance filed by Michael Fealey (like below). We will be talking at length about the grievance process this coming weekend. Some of the hot topics in the grievance include conflict of interest in Will Chang’s ownership in the stadium we’re hosting the RWC 7’s in next summer, the formation of RIM and dilution of the ownership of our brand, and the poor contract with PRO Rugby. All of them have a certain amount of perfect retrospection built in, so we’ll see how the grievance process works out.
- By-law revisions: Two revisions are on the table. The first is USOC mandated changes to include SafeSport (an initiative to protect our athletes against intentional harm such as sexual abuse). The second allows for the creation and integration of the USA Rugby Players Association. Both amendments should have minimal impact on our membership, but I really need to dive into them this week before the meeting.
- Strategic Plan and Business Model: For some positive news, we’ll spend some time diving into the new Strategic Plan and accompanying business model. One awesome outcome already in effect is the creation of the Rugby Business Executive Association which held their first conference in San Diego a few weeks back. We in Texas, as shown in the Strategic Plan, have THREE focused sports markets they wish to engage. In my opinion, we should actively work to host an RBEA conference in each of those markets in consecutive years, and I believe we should work TOGETHER with a common vision and goals. That’s quite a bit outside of my authority as a Congress Rep, but consider yourself lucky get some of my editorial today too!
- Recruitment and Retention Study Results: We’ll finally be getting the official out-brief from the World Rugby sponsored Recruitment/Retention Study, and I’ll be sure to share every insight and the document that comes from that.
- USA Rugby Committee review process: The Committees were under heavy scrutiny 2-3 years ago, but the topic fell to the wayside when CEO changes and budget shortfalls took precedence. This will be an attempt to understand what the committees do, who is on them, and ensure they are an effective group working towards our common goals.
As always, you are welcome to reach out to me, ask questions, provide feedback, etc. I’ve enjoyed this role very much and hope to continue to serve the Union and the members if chosen again in the next Congress election.
USA Rugby By-laws
USA Rugby’s Strategic Plan
By-law Revision – SafeSport
By-law Revision – Player Association
Rugby Today, Pat Clifton’s Cliff Notes
Rugby Wrap Up Interview with Pro Rugby pt 1
Rugby Wrap Up Interview with Pro Rugby pt 2
Michael Fealey grievance
Tony Ridnell’s blog rugby topics starting in Oct 2015
Letter from Congressman Justin Whitton on the upcoming meeting
This is Texas Rugby local and national rugby news from Grant Cole
Events worth noting:
RWC 7’s website and tix July 20-22, 2018 in San Francisco
TRU AGM Aug 27, 2017 in Ft. Worth
TRU Summit Sep 8-10, 2017 in Houston
Lost Afternoon Dec 1, 2017 in Houston
Letter re USA Rugby – Justin Whitton
Article X Eligibility and Disciplinary Procedures