In a letter sent to all Branches and to AIB League clubs, IRFU Director of Rugby Development, Eddie Wigglesworth,, explains the thinking behind the new format for the AIB League.
Following the I.R.F.U. Committee meeting of Friday 20th February 2004 the enclosed** A.I.B. League format was agreed. This format will come into effect for the season 2005/2006 or sooner should it be the wish of the participants.
In making this decision, the Union Committee accepted the Domestic Committee’s proposal which demonstrated that a clear need for change was evident to deal with the many societal, demographic, economic and playing realities which faced the club game in this transitional period.
The significant input received during the consultation process through the many meetings and via individual, Branch and Club submissions clearly indicated that a continuation of the status quo in a period of significant change to the structure, finance and playing of the game was not a viable option. The Domestic Committee wish to emphasise that the restructuring of the A.I.B. League is only one element which will form a vital part of the I.R.F.U. Strategic Plan.
The Committee will bring forward a range of initiatives in conjunction with our Branches/Clubs to address the many critical areas of the club game at present.
1. The reduction in the costs of operations of club rugby to enable clubs to face the harsh economic realities arising from loss of income in the spectator, commercial and corporate areas, reduced bar income from new legislative changes. Financial challenges brought about in many cases as Clubs face the arrival of a full professional season.
2. The need to significantly reduce the Club playing and coaching costs to reflect this new financial reality.
3. To re-assert the critical importance of adult junior rugby to the totality of the game structure as a whole and to address the current speed of decline in that vital sector of Irish rugby.
4. To provide the Branch structures with the professional help to focus on initiatives to develop expand and educate a volunteer base which has declined as a consequence of the emphases on payments and finance to the exclusion of other vital areas in the club game.
5. To further expand our coaching structure and to re-emphasise the need for development of Irish coaches to fill the coaching positions in our National League and Qualifying League teams.
The Domestic Committee in its deliberations placed great emphasis on the need to ensure the new structure provided the high level game environment necessary to develop and hone the competitive instincts and skill of our upcoming players. This new competition model coupled with our regionalised Academy process will provide the elite player pathway for the future identification and development of the next generation of professional players. The Committee wish to state strongly that the role of the Club and the League is a critical element in this elite player process.
The I.R.F.U. believe that this new structure as part of the many strategic initiatives which will be included in the Strategic Plan will result in the revitalisation of our game, assist in the return of volunteers, reduce club rugby operational costs and re-focus our clubs on the other critical levels of the adult playing and coaching game.
DIRECTOR OF RUGBY DEVELOPMENT
(** please see, In News section for The New Competition Model).