Canada 7s Update - October 2018

October 06 2018

Sevens – Player Dispute: "This past Wednesday there appeared to be some movement in the dispute between the national union and the Sevens players"

by BCRN Sevens Correspondent

This past Wednesday there appeared to be some movement in the dispute between the national union and the Sevens players.

Canadian Rugby Foundation Chairman Mike Holmes who has been leading the charge for a resolution headed to Vancouver with the Rugby Canada CEO for a meeting with other stakeholders.

The result of that meeting was a further ‘mediation meeting’ at the Union Club the next day in Victoria which included players, rugby union staff, Foundation representatives, a real union rep and an outside observer(s).

Astonishingly this was the first face-to-face meeting between the players and the national union in many, many months. Incredibly these adversaries had been communicating by email and there were over two hundred pages of “he said – he said” print outs of bitter emails between the parties.

By all accounts everyone directly involved had a presentation and despite a few heated moments - the meeting was generally respectful despite the gap between the players and the union.

On observation it has to be said right off the top that credit has to be given to the Foundation Chairman and Vice Chairman for their intervention and support to resolve this conflict which has escalated into bitterness and massive resentment between the two parties.

On a side note with all this backroom diplomacy by the Foundation it is hard not to wonder what the landscape of rugby would look like in Canada if the Foundation ran the entire financial framework of Rugby Canada.

The fact is and always has been – rugby people in Canada trust the Foundation and more importantly they trust the leaders in charge of that Foundation – this is not the case when there is any financial discussion about how the national union runs their monetary affairs. Over the years Rugby Canada has had a dismal and chronic record of financing the game – and frankly there is little if any trust when discussions about money are involved.

Hence this dispute and the mistrust by players around the issue of money – but there are certainly other issues as well.

It’s nearly impossible to move forward under these conditions when we keep bringing up old disputes and malfunctions from the past which have never been resolved and continue to haunt the landscape. There have been some massive mistakes by RC – financial mistakes, hiring mistakes, program mistakes – the list is endless it seems and made worse by the bad feeling it causes across the country from coast to coast – opinions and commentary vary like the national weather – and it’s not good - nor does it do anything to unite us towards a common purpose or a common goal.

The spillover from the board room to the field has interfered with nearly everything “rugby” which we want and need to accomplish.

Who is to blame and how do we move forward under these conditions?

For the players it’s not as complicated as it is for the administrators it would seem.

Are there outside forces involved here – sure there are – the international HSBC Sevens circuit, the Olympic Games and the Test match’s for the XVs players – men and women.

And then there are the ‘inside forces’ at work as well and that’s where things get messy with opinions and accusations more varied than the national weather forecast.

Some things are clearer than others but regardless of the issues there needs to be resolution:

Questions, opinions and answers – the board is too big to completely understand all the many day to day problems of governance; the player base is too small; two offices in a union our size is unnecessary and frankly ridiculous; there are too many people in those offices on the payroll; the structure of the office model needs a renovation so that it reflects on-field determination and the hiring process needs an overhaul so that it reflects Canadian rugby top to bottom – we’ve had too many ‘models and structures’ from too many jurisdictions and copy-cat remedies which frankly don’t work. It’s confusing to everyone especially our XVs players and their results speak volumes to that view point.

From the Union Club mediation this past Thursday – it seems good will and trying to be ‘fair’ continues to be a sound and attractive Canadian trait in that meeting – not much dispute there BUT being money fair and program fair gets complicated.

The goal to qualify for the Japan RWC next year has the union in a pickle – much is at stake and at the root of it all is Euros from international HQ in Dublin – if we fail to qualify our funding will dry up like the Sahara Desert.

In order to qualify the coach feels we need to be at the COE training together – both Sevens and XVs players. In order to do that the “handouts” have to be fair…or as fair as possible - can you feel the tension yet?

Already assurances of monies to be paid to Sevens players from last year have not been resolved nor paid and the suggestion to take money away from them now or in the future is outrageous! Enter the XVs squad into that equation who have to be paid - and now funding for everyone is really looking like the economy is Venezuela.

Complicated – no kidding - and then after the “A Team” returns from Uruguay the RWC Qualifying Team departs for England for some tune-up games after less than a week on Canadian soil.

Clearly there will be a lot of ‘domestic players’ left behind when the 767 Boeing departs for Heathrow and picks up their European pros after touch-down – how does funding affect those staying behind and should they in fact be getting paid as much as our Sevens players who will depart for Dubai and Cape Town in mid November – and then onto the grueling circuit in the months ahead?

Any reasonable funding formula will never be within our Canadian concept of “fair” – but nor should it be – it’s impossible since the Sevens circuit is a year round commitment (they get four weeks off a year) as opposed to a November and June test series.

At the conclusion of the meeting and detailed note taking it appears that the union must now go away and write down a new set of proposals to present the participants.

For the most part those in attendance seemed vital to the process – a very few not so much - and one attendee who made an obtuse and outrageous remark about trying to discourage players from going into the elite sevens obviously had no place in the room. And sadly it's remarks like this which sour the landscape, pollute the process and leave a bad taste in everyone’s collective mouths.

Hopefully this is a short term hiccup and the proposals coming up will get the players back on the field where they belong and want to be first and foremost.

Dubai is next – stay tuned – who will go and who will stay?

Pemberton Holmes
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