For the 2022/2023 the Adult Male Future Competitions Structure will see a change to League Cups and Lower XVs from Level 3 and below.
The working group considered data that showed increased first team numbers are required to fulfil a season, from approximately 25 two decades ago to 43 players on average currently. The number is increasing yearly as players choose to play fewer games. In some cases, this has led to pressure on Lower XVs in clubs and increased walkovers, alongside a reduction in the number of teams competing in the RFU leagues.
To address this trend, the new competitions structure for leagues at all levels will be organised according to four core principles:
- Putting player welfare/needs at the forefront of decisions
- Ensuring a high quality of player experience
- Supporting club sustainability
- Minimising travel
1. A rapid review of competition structures will take place every three years
2. At all levels there will be a protected two-week break over the Christmas period and protected weekend breaks (at points to be determined through the season)
All teams at a given level will be grouped together geographically to reduce travel times and distance. The league season will be shortened to address concerns shared by players around the intensity of the current league structure.
The size of leagues at Levels 5 and below to be capped at 12 teams, and at Levels 3 & 4 to be capped at 14 teams.
From season 2022/23, the English Clubs Championship at Level 3 and below will consist of:
a. One league at Level 3
b. Three leagues at Level 4
c. Six leagues at Level 5
d. Twelve leagues at Level 6
e. Approximately sixteen leagues at Level 7*
f. Approximately 20 leagues at Level 8*
g. At Level 9 and below will be determined by the relevant organising committee*
*Exact number of leagues to be determined by final size of leagues, number of team entries and local need. At Level 4 to 6 this will be implemented on a regional basis, whereas at Level 7 and below this will be implemented broadly on Constituent Body (CB) boundaries (retaining some flexibility where it makes sense for clubs on CB borders to play in different CBs).
Level 5 and below A cup competition with mid-season, optional, entry will be introduced per level from Level 5 and below to provide a varied diet of rugby with final league position determining the competition entered (e.g. Cup, Plate, or Bowl at respective levels).
Cup competitions will take place upon completion of the league season to avoid fixture clashes. The cup competition provides an opportunity for additional home games to compensate for lost home fixtures from the reduction in the league size.
The competition format will be determined such that pools will operate at Level 5 and top tier of Level 6, and with regional knockout waterfall competitions at the bottom tier of Level 6 and for Level 7 and below, all culminating in ‘Community Game Finals’ to celebrate community rugby at prestigious locations.
LOWER XV CRITERIA
As confirmed earlier this year, from September 2022 Lower XV teams will be able to enter RFU leagues [The English Clubs Championship] up to level 7 in the men’s game, subject to fulfilling specified criteria.
Clubs are encouraged to read the criteria carefully and to consider the playing requirements and implications before moving to the next stage of expressing an interest in participating.
An expression of interest form will be emailed to clubs on 29 November with a completion deadline of 17 January, to give clubs time to discuss internally.
Clubs who already have Lower XVs playing in the English Clubs Championship are not required to express an interest as it is assumed, they will wish to continue their participation in the league programme.
Opening up RFU Leagues to Lower XV teams is a step change in the community game to ensure leagues are safe, fair, and inclusive. Changes to the competition structure have been made in response to participation data and feedback from the Community Game.
The addition of Lower XVs teams aims to offer appropriate competition opportunities for Lower XV teams, and to increase the number of teams and leagues at certain levels to help reduce travel time for clubs and players.
The goal is to keep more players actively involved in the game and to minimise walkovers in lower leagues by increasing the opportunity for more local rugby.
We will monitor the effect of changes to the competition structure through periodical reviews every three years. This will be pivotal to accommodate the inclusion of the Lower XV teams at the appropriate playing level.
DECISION MAKING PROCESS
All RFU voting member clubs can have a say, either by expressing an interest in entering a Lower XV team, or by voting in favour of having Lower XVs in their league to compete against, through the CB process outlined below.
Constituent Bodies and Divisional Organising Committees will receive a list of all clubs in their area that have expressed an interest in entering Lower XVs into the RFU Leagues
CBs have the option of disapplying or placing restrictions on Lower XV teams from their county joining RFU Leagues by making representation to the FCS Commission (which has been established to finalise implementation of the new league structure). Please see the Lower XV entry criteria document for more detail. Lower XV team entry into RFU Leagues will be assessed against an entry criteria.
Further detail will be provided early in the New Year, when we will also host a webinar to discuss any queries clubs may have.
Stage 1 - Assessing demand
29 Nov – 17 Jan - Expression of Interest period
On 29 November, a direct email will be sent to Honorary Secs, Chair, Fixtures Secretaries, Treasurers at geographical CBs all RFU voting clubs including a reminder summary of criteria and an expression of interest form to complete IF clubs meet the criteria and are keen to enter their Lower XVs team/s (one or more) in RFU leagues.
Clubs who already have Lower XVs playing in the English Clubs Championship are not required to express and interest as it is assumed, they will wish to continue their participation in the league programme.
Deadline to express interest is 17 January 2022
Please note that completing an expression of interest does not commit a club to taking part, nor is there a guarantee that clubs that express an interest will have their application approved to participate at a specific level.
Stage 2 - Managing Interest 19 Jan – 18 Feb
On 19 Jan, Constituent Bodies and Divisional Organising Committees will receive a list of clubs in their area that have expressed an interest in entering Lower XVs.
At this point the CB and the DOC will determine if the clubs reach the criteria and if they want to hold a vote to allow their Lower XV to enter leagues, having taken into consideration if there is an existing sustainable local competition meeting the needs of an applicant club’s Lower XV.
18 February is the closing date for CBs to return their vote to the RFU Competitions Department on whether their CB would like to enter lower XVs into the English Clubs Championship.
Stage 3 - Formal Applications – 28 Feb - 18 Mar
On 28 February, clubs will be invited to submit an official application to their DOC (to enter a Lower XV team/s into RFU Leagues.)
We would encourage clubs to talk with their CBs to better understand their position before completing the final entry forms on 28th February.
W/c 15/16 June Fixtures release