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tim2

Southern Conference 2013

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Beckenham could hit Greenwich as well who really struggled last year. A new Croydon team must be harmful as well. For Hammersmith to be the oldest amateur club in London would be a sad state of affairs.

Elmbridge have been going for a lot longer, even if they did change their name from Kingston.

Hopefully Souths will build up again, but there could be a weak London League below the Southern Conference next season (echoes of 1997!)

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Elmbridge have been going for a lot longer, even if they did change their name from Kingston.

Hopefully Souths will build up again, but there could be a weak London League below the Southern Conference next season (echoes of 1997!)

I was thinking of Elmbridge as outside London but yes a very long history there. Expect they'll be back in the South East for now?

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are greenwich still going at a senior level?

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are greenwich still going at a senior level?

They struggled last year and a new club is setting up nearby. Hope they get through it though

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Yes, the RFL funded a 3G pitch. Next year there'll be a grass pitch alongside.

Didn't the RFL part fund it to the tune of £250,000, I think the overall cost was £650,00 I'm sure I read somewhere. ( happy to be put right on the figures)

Are South London playing there next season or moving?

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Not bothered about Pro's playing in the amateur game personally, It's the fact that Pro's will be getting the game time at amateur clubs while amateurs at that club and many more will have to sit the weekend out without a game.

Quick one!!! Is the role of the amateur club too provide a game for professionals who are not getting selected or to provide somewhere for rugby league players TO PLAY who can't make the grade?

Before anyone says the amateurs can filter downwards, where do the ones play that fall out of the bottom of the filter?

I think you may have mentioned 'once or twice' that plenty of amateur fixtures have to be cancelled.

That doesn't suggest that anyone is going to struggle to get a game. It's not like you've a habit of contradicted yourself.

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I think you may have mentioned 'once or twice' that plenty of amateur fixtures have to be cancelled.

That doesn't suggest that anyone is going to struggle to get a game. It's not like you've a habit of contradicted yourself.

Do you honestly believe players who have been pushed out are going to hang around waiting.

How have I contradicted myself ?

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I posted TOP Tier 4 i.e. Premier or Top Divisions only......

Marauder conveniently forgets that Barla DID allowed professionals - they were called ' Permit Players ' - for over 30 years at 2 per team ( not club ) regardless of that team's competition level ..... No-one ever claimed Barla had ' lost the amateur game ' by doing that BARLA did stop permit players after the RFL undermined & overruled a disciplinary set by BARLA on a permit player, ( though they may well have done since 2004 by not doing lots of other things .... :( )

The stuff being discussed at Regulatory ( Barla included but out voted ) is much more structured than that.

Have you changed your mind on permit players Peter?

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Elmbridge have been going for a lot longer, even if they did change their name from Kingston.

Hopefully Souths will build up again, but there could be a weak London League below the Southern Conference next season (echoes of 1997!)

Would Hammersmith be in this weak London League? Could be some thrashings though guess echoes of London Colonials

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Any ideas on criteria for such a league , juniors for example , or is it envisaged it will purely be on playing standard of the team and percieved willingness to travel?

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Any ideas on criteria for such a league , juniors for example , or is it envisaged it will purely be on playing standard of the team and percieved willingness to travel?

There are supposed to be criteria but not sure what they entail. Would make a difference to if Hammersmith get in for instance if juniors are required.

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There are supposed to be criteria but not sure what they entail. Would make a difference to if Hammersmith get in for instance if juniors are required.

At the meeting desirable standards were discussed, and various criteria explained. All clubs have to actually apply to join, justifying why they should get a place, what junior work is being done, clubmark status etc etc. One of the big things was running more than one team. Could be having an 'A' team, or be a team closely linked to a pro club structure (see Skolars, Hallam, Hemel etc).

Some criteria will be set in stone, others will be added over time to get closer to NCL criteria. The idea is high standards as clubs, rather than just decent playing personnel.

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And when you drill into what is actually quantifiable in the NCL criteria, they won't be that far apart.

Quite right, too. I'm sure all the clubs, as well as the RFL, this to be a "proper" Tier 3 division with high standards on and off the pitch.

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What is happening with this league? I thought that the teams taking part were going to be announced on the 30th November?

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That was the deadline for telling the league your intentions. There are enough clubs to run the division but there are 1 or 2 clubs yet to decide. They want an announcement before Christmas

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Who's the best person to talk to about to learn about the club's experiences. We're doing a similar thing later next year and would be keen to hear some advice.

I'm sure I can write one of those classic self-published RL books about Aouth London one day. The sort that get about 25 readers...

The issues aren't difficult. Essentially, South London were run very well for a long time because there were sufficient development officer resources in there to effectively pay a body to run the club as part of a development officer job (obviously it wasn't full-time club admin, and involved lots of youth work etc). As a result, the club attracted good coaches, good players and offered a top-notch matchday experience (within the limits of Streatham-Croydon RFC's changing facilities !). Then the following happened, much of which happened simultaneously :

  • The funding which continued was solely focussed on youth teams. Therefore the open-age side started to get less attention.
  • The club somehow began to fall out with their Union landlords, to the extent that the landlords turned down the opportunity to have the new pitch installed for use by both codes at Streatham-Croydon rather than accept a dual code club with some guaranteed league presence. The Union club then attempted to hugely increase the rents, forcing Storm out.
  • The decision was taken to build the new pitch at a school in Croydon. This was probably a big mistake, but hindsight is always 20-20
  • During a transitional period of a year, Storm based themselves at a different, even more junior, Union club in an area which was much less accessible than Streatham-Croydon. With poor transport links and facilities (pitches open to dog-walkers, hostile locals not above pinching post-protectors and flags), player numbers and quality began to drop off alarmingly. In addition, whereas at Streatham, Storm had been reasonably well integrated as the top of a pyramid of junior sides, it was effectively divorced at the new home, and so received even less attention from development officers, leaving it a one-man band.
  • At the same time, the one-man band Storm had become (Gio) was running out of steam. From being essentially paid full-time to manage Storm as one of his jobs, Gio had become a volunteer club admin with no real income for himself. This led to rapid disillusionment, and after a fall-out with a group of players, Gio literally disappeared.
  • A group of old Stormers, including myself, Dave Bold, Paul Brown and last-year's manager, Camerdon Paul, stepped back in to try and keep the club going in 2011. We managed to fulfl the season, and even got a few second team games played (although me and Graeme ended up playing again, which was probably not advisable at our great age). But there were already serious problems emerging.
  • The pitch is great. The location is terrible. It's a school. There's no bar and no kitchen we can use. There's no pub nearby. Transport links are pretty bad if you're coming from anywhere central. It was hard to attract and keep the sort of player who works in central London, and not being a Union club, we didn't pick up much in the way of interested union players. There was simply no reason for rugby players to be there.
  • The school became increasingly unco-operative landlords. They were hiring out the pitch to 5-a-side soccer teams and making a mint. They became very keen to see us give up our training nights so they could make more cash. In part of the deal which to this day I will never understand, the RFL had not insisted on free RL use of the pitch they'd put so much money into. So despite the fact it was paid for by the RFL, Storm were paying large amounts of cash to use their own pitch. In addition, we had several match days when it was dificult to get into and use the changing rooms (and often only one small set of showers worked), and the guys had to produce a heroic effort to bring along a BBQ to provide post-match food and drink. Without a clubhouse though, or indeed anywhere inside, both home and away players didn't tend to hang around long after a game, so there wasn't much of a club atmosphere.
  • Last year, Paul and I couldn't continue. Paul because the travelling time was killing him (he lives hours away in East London), and me because my young kids didn't really allow me the time to do training nights and match days. Cameron and Dave kept it going for another year in 2012, but player numbers dropped off dramatically, and there was clearly a downward spiral in evidence. I ended up reffing Souths in a couple of games where they hadn't managed to get the full 13. That's just not what the club has been about since the earliest days.
  • As a result, negotiations started with Wests, who had withdrawn from the league after hitting their own player-numbers problem, with a view to forming a joint club playing out of Clapham Common. That seemed a sensible idea to me, but I don't know where negotiations have got to.

It's a bit of a tale of woe. The two lessons which stand out for me are :

1) Location matters. The decision to place the pitch at a school (especially at a school in this location) was a mistake in hindsight. It's just completely unsuitable to supporting an open age club. In London, travelling time is a killer. Couple that with a near complete lack of social facilities, and high costs to play on a pitch your own sport bought, and you will find it almost impossible to sustain an open age club.

2) Club management. The perennial issue in London has always been the impermanent nature of club admins. If you're lucky, you get a few guys who live in a specific area, whose jobs are secure and predictable, who have spare time and whose passion for league means they'll be able to take on the job of running a club. But more often in London, you get clubs bouncing from one admin to the next, with few lasting more than a couple of years. Not many clubs down here have that sort of base. I really wanted to be able to do that for Storm, but I discovered I simply didn't have the time. Cameron's job took him to Hertfordhire, and Paul Brown's business and location limits what time he can commit. None of us live close to Storm's school ground.

I do think it's sad that two of the real solid, bedrock clubs of London RL, Wests and Souths, have both essentially gone to the wall in the same year. Not least because the development officer funding even for kids' rugby is coming to an end next year, and without an integrated senior and junior club system, I'm not at all confident that the junior clubs will survive in south London. Indeed, I think that there could quickly be a RL desert between Elmbridge in the southwest and Greenwich in the southeast (assuming Greenwich pull through).

In terms of what to do, I'm not really in a position to preach, because I can't commit the time to do anything other than referee for a couple of hours each weekend. But I'd say the following offers the best hope :

  1. Storm should relocate to Streatham Croydon again. I don't know exactly what that row was about, but I think there might have been personalities in there who are now gone. If there's any possibility of a return, then that's the place to go. Transport links, rugby players and decent facilities. I don't know why a separate Croydon club would be set up there. Far better in my view for the people thinking of doing that to simply move Storm in there and take on an existing club with some existing players, and preserve the South London name and tradition.
  2. If the RFL is in any way interested in preserving the RL scene it has built up over the last decade in south London, then it will need to invest. I think one of the biggest problems of the last five years has been that the RFL-funded bodies on the ground have been focused almost solely on kids' rugby, which means countless development officer hours have been put into maintaining a youth system while the open age club at the top of that youth system has been withering and dying. At least one of those development officers should have had the maintenance of the open age club written into his contract. If there's any funding at all for the area, then that needs to be a priority.
  3. As for the club in Beckenham, I wish it well. There's a lot of rugby union clubs and players in that area (where I live, as it happens), and they could well get something going that needn't clash with Storm.
  4. The new pitch in Croydon ? Well I reckon that school's done the deal of the century. They got someone else to pay for an absolute goldmine, and within three years of it being installed, it's going to be essentially wholly owned and operated by the school with no rugby league being played on it. I reckon any aspiring clubs wil be able to buy the rugby posts off them within the year, because the RFL has basically funded a fantastic school 5-a-side soccer pitch.

Sorry about the length of this.

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Sad to see and this year has seen many other once strong sides collapse.

West London Sharks seem to have had their juniors leave London to move to Staines start their decline. But totally agree about linking juniors to open age as South Wales didn't either and have lost the entire open age league as a result.

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.

Thanks for that explaination.

Something worrying me about this is that £250.000 was put into a project without security of tenure or being bled dry to play on it. I would question about how throughly this process was checked.

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When you add that experience to the Birmingham decline to the extinction of the Welsh league and the apparent loss if interest in the Somerset/devon area, it paints a depressing picture. The game made such amazing country wide progress in the last few years and it appears to be slowly disappearing.

The RFL need to get some funding back into these grassroots to maintain their existence. They should cut the SL money now the clubs are not needing it for their under 20 teams.

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The best use of funding would be getting 10-12 sides in a solid Conference South.

At a lower level best to work around more localised leagues to help attract more clubs. With the best will in the world neither the merit leagues nor U18 leagues work. Cumbria and North East have much better open age structures without them (although the NE are planning on having a small merit league next year)

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It seems to me that London would be better off rationalising resources (playing, financial and personnel) into 8-10 sustainable clubs spread across the city. Too many teams, not enough clubs.

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It seems to me that London would be better off rationalising resources (playing, financial and personnel) into 8-10 sustainable clubs spread across the city. Too many teams, not enough clubs.

At tier 4 level yes. You still want ideally 2-3 sides in Conference South plus the pro clubs.

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As an ex-Souths player, Julian's post made enlightening but depressing reading.

The £250,000 down the toilet beggars belief, although I am aware of another example of the RL Foundation getting hoodwinked in this way (albeit on a smaller scale).

I just hope this situation can be rescued

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