Rugby Canada Updates - August 2019

August 16 2019

Rugby Canada logo (Feb 2018)

What's Happening at RC - Last AGM Not Adjourned Due to Lack of Audited Financials; Is New Insurance Policy "Killing Grassroots"

[ed. comments below]

Something seems to be happening behind the scenes at Rugby Canada - there's been a few low key moves lately, the COO coming on board unheralded. We ran an article on COO Bryan Wilson in March. The employee listing on the website disappeared. Then the Richmond Hill office disappeared from the website. Damian McGrath, a successful and popular, 7s coach sacked. The XVs assistant made head 7s coach. There seem to be a lot of cost cutting moves going on which isn't a bad thing but it seems to be going ahead on the quiet and now maybe the reason is clear, Rugby Canada are in some sort of financial distress. Again not totally surprising but what was surprising is finding out recently that the last AGM wasn't officially adjourned because there weren't any audited financials to present. So now we're hearing the AGM may be officially adjourned and the 2018 audited financials presented at the semi-annual General Meeting in September in Ottawa. There's been no official confirmation of the meeting date and location made to the public, or that the financials will be presented then.

Then another stealth move came this month when Rugby Canada started enforcing a new insurance policy through the Provincial member unions, even though nothing has been presented in writing. We're hearing from grassroots rugby administrators from across the country and some are using the phrase, "this is killing grassroots rugby". What we're hearing is now youth camps have to not only insure the event, which was always the case, but each participant has to be registered, which is new. Previously if you wanted to run a youth camp and attract non-rugby youth you would pay the event insurance and invite the kids, keeping the cost down. Now if 12 year old Timmy or Suzy who have never seen a rugby ball, and may never after the camp, want to attend they have to register with Rugby Canada and pay a fee. The minimum registration fee is $45 for 2 weeks.

We asked for clarification from Rugby Canada and this is the statement we received from Bryan Wilson the COO: "Rugby Canada has been reviewing player welfare and the current resources supporting it – which includes our insurance coverage. As part of that review, Rugby Canada has been working very closely with our insurance broker to ensure application of insurance coverage is consistent and continues to meet our needs. This in turn has led to a number of our rugby community seeking clarification on our coverage. As we complete our review and ensure that we are comfortable with the application of our insurance coverage, the intent is to send a note to all our Members (Provincial Unions) to ensure all involved are aware of the coverage provided as a registered participant of Rugby Canada."

So nothing is being revealed except the insurance is under review but apparently during that review Provincial member unions have been asked to apply this new policy. We asked Louise Wheeler and Annabel Kehoe for some clarification and will include the official response when and if we receive one.

Questions that have been asked, "is this a Rugby Canada cash grab"? With RC's seemingly tardy and perhaps fragile finances still under wraps, it's a valid question. "If every player has to register what does the event insurance cover", again a valid question.

We've already heard that camps in New Brunswick, Manitoba and BC have been affected but the silence at the top is deafening. We hope to provide more updates when people read the article, report it up the chain of command and there accumulates enough discomfort at the top to provide legitimate answers, that's the way the process normally works.

It's interesting that this week an article started circulating on social media originally from CBS News Game over: Middle-class and poor kids are ditching youth sports. The article notes, "the rising cost of playing sports, coupled with rising economic inequality, is increasingly leading poor and even middle-class families to hang up their cleats." Is rugby in Canada pricing it's way out of the market for poor and middle class families with a new interpretation on insurance policies.

Stay tuned for further updates. Feel free to leave comments in the section below or email if you have a story to share about rugby insurance at the grassroots level.

Pemberton Holmes
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