Editorial: Are Reserve Leagues Necessary in BC or Hampering the Growth of Regional Rugby
The editorial was prompted by the following comment from Andy Blackburn on the BC Premier schedule.
from Andy Blackburn
With a 2018-19 - 4 Team Div 1 Mainland League and a 2 Team Div 1 Island League (hence a combined 6 Team BC wide Div 1 League) isn’t it about time we create a Mainland Div 1 and an Island Div 1 League comprising of Premier Reserve teams!?!
Save on travel $$$ at Premier Reserve level and you can still have crossover games at Quarter-Final stage. Surrey, Bayside, Abby & United would be great competition for Mainland Premier Reserve clubs and I believe Island is already experimenting with this concept in 2018-19 - good on ya!!!
There is no critical mass to sustain both Premier Reserve and Div 1 League’s so let’s bite the bullet and combine the 2 and accept we have 4 Senior Men’s Tiers:
The BC Premier league operates on the premise that you need a Premier team and a Reserve team. They travel together every Saturday and their schedules match, each Saturday they play two games. The most common reasons put forward for the need of this structure are:
A) clubs don't necessarily have enough players for two teams, especially props, so by travelling together they can share players. So Prop A can play 80 minutes Reserve then sub in for the last 20 of the Premier match. Instead of travelling with 46 players a club can get by with fewer players for two matches.
B) clubs want to keep their teams together for "club days" - this is especially useful when hosting.
Detractors of the Reserve league point out it hurts regional rugby. The Reserve team could be playing in Division 1 and creating a more robust regional Div 1 league under Premier.
The first question we had is "what other leagues are based on the Reserve concept" and went to Google with "Reserve Leagues".
Google didn't disappoint and came up first with a Wiki article on the now defunct UK Premier Reserve League in football (aka soccer). Especially interesting is the Reserve league folded in favour of a U21 competition. That's food for thought in BC where the U21 player base has long been identified as a sector needing more growth, resources and attention.
The Premier Reserve League (officially known as The Barclays Premier Reserve League for sponsorship reasons) was the reserve team league for the top English football teams in the Premier League. The league was split into a northern and a southern division.
The final season was the 2011–12 season. At the end of that season, it was replaced by an Under-21 competition, called the Professional Development League 1.
The next article was again Wiki and just on Reserve Teams in general, again relating to soccer and to professional teams. Even in this arena it's described as contentious. One solution when clubs didn't want to run a Reserve team is they would take the "license" of a club in a lower division to be their Reserve team. The article linked to Rugby League in this regard and "National Rugby League reserve affiliations". The system seems to operate much like "farm teams" in hockey, if you don't play for the top team one weekend you can play for the affiliated club in the lower division.
Are any of these options workable in an amateur league however and would BCRU allow the flow of players up and down leagues between affilated clubs? When professional rugby comes to BC, which it will eventually, it may be the case of amateur teams being affilated with the pro team and see players move up and down throughout the season. In reality it's not much different than what Rugby Canada has in place with the Premier clubs in the Victoria region where players move in and out of programs based on need and availability.
So the BC Premier Reserve league, necessary or hampering the growth of regional rugby? Should the focus be on a separate U21 league, is there any room for affiliate relationships between clubs in different leagues, would the BCRU allow it?