Posted 30 August 2013 - 11:26 AM
The main issue I have with having 2 seasons is handling the overlap and players flitting between seasons and clubs, altering the integrity of one or the other.
I'll try to summarise what I think based only on Open Age, for the moment.
Outside the heartlands it's pretty simple. We only play summer and the issue for each region is mainly the length of the season and the reliance, or otherwise, on Rugby Union. Just like cricket, we cope with people taking holidays and going to festivals. There are some issues related to dual registration and also the number of clubs capable of playing at a "Tier 3" level, but I think this is an iterative process and, because we are really all going into uncharted territory, not blighted by too much history.
Obviously things become more complex in the traditional regions. Reaching a solution whereby enough choice is available to all in both the March-November and September-May seasons is fraught with problems. If a club wants to play at the highest level it can, both on the field and against clubs with appropriate facilities and under a strong league management, there is currently only one choice. If that were to fragment into two it would certainly dilute Tier 3 and the standards that have been set at that level. Some clubs, for financial and logistical reasons, need to play regionally. So, you have to also offer a regional option of sufficient variety of standard that makes it viable. If too few clubs choose one season over the other, the gap in standards makes it not viable. Also, duplication of all levels spreads volunteer resources thinly - you are running multiple leagues all year long that need administrators.
What about the players who love playing all the time and find a club to play for for part of the season that is outside their main club's season. They are exercising their choice to play, and I wouldn't really want to stop people playing the game. But what effect does this have on competition integrity?
Then you get the bigger clubs who want it all - play in both seasons, keep the clubhouse ticking over all the time, give all their players a choice. Can that really work during the crossovers? How does that affect the strength of the club at various times of the year?
Last, and not least, the interaction with the professional game. I personally believe that you should only play for one club at any one time. My opinion? If the pro game can't afford to run a reserve comp, that's too bad and its a problem for the pro game to resolve by getting more money in. Using the community game to solve that problem is a bad idea. For me, pro clubs should take the long view on this, and help community clubs to drastically increase the number of players playing the game from as young an age as possible. They should work to improve standards of coaching in the community game but should not, gain my opinion only, select players below the age of 16. If we want junior rep football, which actually has been a good recruitment tool for us in the Midlands in the past, then it should be properly integrated with the community season. The current system is a shambles. Sorry, didn't mean to talk about the junior game but I couldn't help myself.
So, to summarise - choice is indeed a fine thing, but only if you have enough bandwidth to offer a full choice in both seasons. As of now, it seems we are spreading ourselves very thinly indeed.