Total Rugby – Oval Sports Crisis

HRV President Nils Zurawski with thoughts on German club rugby and ways out of the crisis

Dense second Bundesliga Nord, goal strength far below the total, cancellations of games at the start of the Regionalliga Nord, licensing requirements for the first Bundesliga that do not deserve the name. German club rugby is in a deep crisis, both in terms of sport and organization. With effects on the international stage, on which many believe that the DRV XV should deliver in the top European class. But where is the journey of the oval sport in Germany going? An attempted statement by the president of the Hamburg rugby unionNils Zurawski.

What happened: actually nothing to be surprised about. Canceled two games of the Regionalliga Nord. Two clubs did not have teams that they could have or wanted to play on matchday one. So far everything normal now. But that still raises some questions ahead of the first day. I don’t want to find an answer to this, I just want to ask more questions.

What the future of rugby looks like in Germany in general; and what do we need for the future? The answer is obvious: offspring! What role could the first and second federal leagues play in particular, and less the regional and federative leagues? In this context, the Bundesliga is a model and is still a sporting target for many clubs. The German champions are worth something among clubs, even if no one else in Germany is very interested in the sport.

Offspring is part of the license terms. However, these are not designed to make any improvement in the current crisis. We can use it to punish and encourage people to do better. However, this is neither deterrent enough nor has it achieved significant results in the past. The crisis has rather escalated and if the licensing provisions were strictly enforced, it would lead to the self-produced dissolution of a significant competition.

What should we do instead? We currently have seven U18 teams competing for a German championship – with the exception of one team, these are unions. Yet, because at least these kids can still play rugby. But do these guys also play in their Bundesliga teams after the U18s? It seems to me that the intertwining between youth and Bundesliga teams must be designed in such a way that clubs urgently need their youngsters or that their efforts are rewarded. We should think about the “how”.

Buying players? A good idea for clubs, but only at first glance, as current and past examples show. There must be limits here, as this does not advance German rugby either in terms of breadth or peak. However, the Bundesliga in its role for German rugby is essential for the development of our sport. Here we have to develop plans and implement them with the clubs, taking into account the different interests. And the focus must be on reward instead of punishment!

In general, the initiatives of clubs that take care of young people should be rewarded, rather than just voting rights and contribution discounts, directly in the competition or in the leagues. The fact that this often can’t be implemented at the RL and VL level is fine, as popular sport is there too. But at the Bundesliga level, there has to be an afterthought. Here we have to come together and make plans for the next five or ten years, which we then implement. Together with the clubs, because otherwise there will be more cancellations of matches, withdrawals from the federal championships, which are already too inflated.

At the moment, however, I don’t see any change in German rugby. A little digression: I’ve just given the two full-time employees in my department inflation compensation, just like my main club does with all of its employees. I was asked and of course I accepted. Three percent more, about 1,500 euros a year more for both. Not much, but excessive expense for me. Individual destiny, one might think, because it bothers him. True, but not true either. Because during the performances as guests of two Hanoverian clubs in Hamburg, I kept hearing the following sentences or snippets of sentences: “We or they are still waiting for six South Africans”, “the south is buying this or that Fidji or the South African”, ” these or those have professional players. ” Players who play rugby for money in Germany and should give the clubs hope for the championship. In the current situation, only four to five clubs can be considered in the current general situation. Mainly from the south. This will not change if the situation remains as it is. However, the clubs that spend money aren’t limited to the south – they are found everywhere.

A club in Hanover told me very openly, more out of protest than out of pride, that they have 19 students and young people of all ages – 19 in all! It was a lament for how badly the department was currently delivered. This is very regrettable, but for a top team from one of the two strongholds of rugby in Germany it is also a real oath of revelation. My club was able to provide more enema babies in the game than the corresponding club in training.

How do these things fit together?

I wonder what kind of working relationships exist in German rugby clubs? How are professionals hired, who pays them, from what? I know the model with a three-month tourist visa. But then that person shouldn’t be allowed to work here. Who pays social security contributions, who pays health insurance, is it the minimum wage? What’s the mess with mini jobs? Social fraud, exploitation? It is clear that the players come here above all, because what little there is is even better than at home, because there is a gap between there and here. How do the players live here? Yes, they are young people who don’t need much. However, we often bring our very special rugby values ​​before us like a monstrance: do they end with the treatment of athletes? And do they all get inflation compensation and energy money? Probably not! Interestingly, some regulations have always failed due to Bundesliga travel expenses, even with the arguments of the clubs, now shopping so vigorously and even then.

What lasting effect do these strategies have for rugby in Germany? The argument is that there are players who train young people. Which offspring? Except for Frankfurt, I don’t see any notable youngsters in the U16 and U18 classes, which are important to men’s rugby. And even there the long-time champions of these classes in recent years do not play in the first team. Correct me if I’m wrong. What positive effects did Wild’s funds have in Heidelberg, what are the effects of cooperation in Leipzig and Hanover with South African academies? It’s about the championship title and that has become a deal in Heidelberg, Frankfurt and now presumably Offenbach. Become a champion, show others. World famous in your own village!?! It would be provincial in a way it couldn’t be more provincial. The clubs in Hanover already disbanded in this way almost 20 years ago. Others will follow. The rest of the republic is trying. Not all national federations would compete with a team for the U18 LVM either – this is poor. And Corona is only marginally linked to it, as well as to the rest of the misery. So what do you do?

Surprisingly very little in the beginning, namely mainly asking questions and being honest about the situation and accepting that things are not going very well – except for program 7! My impression is that this program works well or very well. And this against all possibility given the context and the prevailing framework conditions. So that no one thinks that I have missed or that I don’t care: I celebrate the team, its players and the effort that Rugby Germany and Manuel Wilhelm have put into this project. But it will have no effect in Germany, much less on club attitudes.

Back to questions. This time we don’t have to overturn the association as an organization. That’s why we need to talk to each other, and for this we need good questions: what do we, the clubs, the associations really want? What are we good at? How can we achieve the objectives, what are the measures for? There can be many answers to this. But we’re always too quick with the answers, new models, some money here and everything should work. This is nonsense! In my opinion, we have the following options, mainly Bundesliga related, but which will determine everything else at some point.

Why the men’s Bundesliga? Because he is the leading figure in our sport in Germany. Because that’s the only place that momentum can and should come from. If there isn’t, then there can be no incentive even for small clubs playing in the lower leagues. These clubs may no longer be interested in the Bundesliga for a long time. So what do you do?

a. Let’s continue as before: patching up the license conditions a bit here and there, tweaking the championship system, sometimes someone backs down or retires or goes big – in the end it doesn’t matter. It won’t get any better. If that’s enough for all of us, then that’s fine. We have to honestly tell ourselves – and then it’s okay. It’s not bad, it’s just a shame.

b. We place our hopes on a large donor or the success of the team of 7, whose success fills the coffers – and all our problems are solved. My suspicion: it won’t happen.

c. We are starting to think, to ask questions about a different rugby culture in Germany. How could we develop rugby, what might we need, what have we probably never thought about? And I don’t mean a 7-pro series or anything like that. New forms of play, different league rules (not game rules), a plan – we need something like that!

Other sports could provide examples, because there are difficulties there too, albeit at a high level. In this context, 3 × 3 basketball would be an example of another type of game that is now an Olympic sport. Again, the change in behavior in your free time is likely a reason to think about new concepts. It is absurd to believe that rugby will not be affected by the changed conditions. Only: we don’t react to it!

How such innovations can appear in rugby, that apparently a decision has to be made between the ages of 15 and 7, which leads to absurd situations with women in Germany, for example, would be a task that should be discussed. But as I said at the beginning, I didn’t want to present solutions, I just wanted to talk to German rugby. A possible theme would be the implementation of semiprofessional structures in thinking and in clubs as a possible first step to get out of the crisis. Short-term investments or partnerships with South African academies are not sustainable if none of them reach young people. It would only be a deceptive appearance of (semi) professionalism. It wouldn’t be a future.






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