From the Editor's Desk - September 2019

September 12 2019

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World Rugby Sources and/or Funds the Majority of Coaches for Tier 2 Nations - Including Canada

This all started with World Rugby's Head of Communication, Dominic Rumbles, tweeting out, "Did you know?: 120 of the 150 coaches involved with Canada, Fiji, Georgia, Japan, Namibia, Russia, Samoa, Tonga, Uruguay & USA have been sourced and/or funded by @WorldRugby" on September 8th.

No doubt he was expecting a "hear, hear" or "jolly good show" from the audience, but most of the feedback from Canada and USA was along the lines of "is that a good thing". There was one positive comment from the head coach of Namibia, a Welshman, no doubt on the World Rugby payroll "Fantastic support for Tier 2 Nations in particular Namibia". That pretty well sums up the divide in opinion, the 120 coaches who are sourced and funded by World Rugby think it's a great idea, no doubt the administrators in these Tier 2 countries who benefit from World Rugby money also think it's a great idea. Those trying to promote opportunities for domestic coaches have a different opinion.

Stephen Lewis a top coach in the USA and a rugby writer had this to say, "World Rugby doesn’t fund the development of coaching pathways in said countries but then pays overseas coaches to parachute in. Then takes the credit. Sporting colonialism redux. Also "I'm suggesting that instead of paying foreign coaches every World cup cycle, they could get much better ROI from investing in coach development programs, of which there are none."

The Guardian newspaper in the UK then stepped in with an article that questioned World Rugby's coaching development policy "Is World Rugby inadvertently only adding to the coaching depth of the major players, given it is funding many of the coaches of the second-tier nations out of its development kitty?"

The debate continued online, Brock Turner, a sports business entrepreneur and a member of the North Star Rugby team raised the question, "Just a few questions- if am correct, Canada was a founding member of World Rugby...yes? And we have had rugby in Canada for over a hundred years...yes? In all that time and with help from around the world, we can't seem to produce our own international level coaches? Why not?" A reply came from south of the border "That's for Canadians to look into, New Zealand has a superior coaching program culture from grassroots junior levels to playing to coaching and off [sic] course a professional comp that hones the skills of up and coming super coaches. I would expect NHL has a lot of Canadian coaches?"

So that seemed a good point to do some research. The NHL would be to Super Rugby or English Premiership as World Rugby would be to International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). So is the IIHF sourcing and funding Canadian coaches abroad in the numbers 120 out of 150 (4 out of 5) in Tier 2 hockey nations? Canada are the All Blacks of Hockey, currently ranked #1 in the World, Russia #2. Let's take a look at Great Britain, ranked 20th in the world. They would qualify as a Tier 2 hockey nation, do they have a Canadian coach, a Russian coach perhaps? The answer is no, their head coach is Peter Russell, from the UK, he never played or coached in the NHL, he had 8 years as a player in British hockey. How about Japan, ranked 23rd, their coaching team - Head coach Yuji Iwamoto, Assistants Masahito Haruna, Teruhiko Okita Tomohito Okubo. We're guessing they're domestic coaches, not IIHF sourced and funded. Poland, ranked 22nd, same as Canada in rugby. Their head coach, Tomasz Valtonen, Polish born, played professionally in Finland.

It appears the IIHF doesn't have a plan in place to source and fund 4 out of 5 coaches in Tier 2 nations and parachute them into well paying jobs. It does however have a "Partnership for Progress" program that "will bring bigger and smaller organizations together to form partnerships and help developing hockey countries not just at the level of national associations but also between leagues and clubs. The IIHF will serve as platform and network to bring partners together, to send experts of their field from bigger to smaller nations, give inputs for co-operation and provide platforms to organize events such as the championships and camps."

On the matter of coaching, "A constant exchange of knowledge from top coaches on all level is vital to guarantee the positive development of our sport,” said Tom Renney, Chairman of the IIHF Coaching Committee and CEO of Hockey Canada.

If you look up colonialism, it's "the belief in and support for the system of one country controlling another". World Rugby's policy of sourcing and funding the top coaching jobs in Tier 2 nations and populating them with people from a select group of Tier 1 nations is not development, it's a throwback to a colonial way of thinking.

Pemberton Holmes
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