An FA Cup for Club Rugby?

It’s not often that a drunken chat after a round of golf turns so serious that the participants all wake up the next morning wanting to chat about it some more, writes Newshields.

However a recent gathering after 9 holes at the Bethlehem Golf Club achieved this remarkable feat. The topic? Is it possible for amateur club rugby in South Africa to have a yearly FA-Cup type competition to see who is best?

For those of you who do not follow the round ball game at all, the Football Association Cup in England is the oldest soccer tournament in the world and still one of the most prestigious.

What makes the FA cup special is that every single registered English football club can partake in it. Yes that’s right – every single club competes every year for the FA Cup, from Dowtown Dingville to even lesser clubs like Tottenham Hotspur.

So what will it take for club rugby in South Africa (and perhaps Namibia and Zim) to copy the FA cup?

First of all we need to understand the vast distances clubs will have to travel if for example ‘All Days’ gets drawn to play a Cape Town club. Secondly we need to realise that clubs are already cash strapped as it is. Finally we must understand the difference between totally amateur clubs and clubs like Tukkies where they sometimes field a highly paid professional or two. Or Maties where they often field a highly paid ‘player’ or two.

Looking at the above one might come close to rejecting the idea outright.

But consider the following:

If 2000 clubs play every year the competition will only consist of 10 ‘rounds’ whereby ‘small clubs’ (determined by number of registered players on their books/budgets etc) play round 1 to 3 with medium clubs joining round 4, bigger clubs at round 5 and semi-pro clubs at round 6 to 10.

This means that most small and poorer clubs will only play one or two games a year. Only every second year will they play an away game. Home games can be marketed well seeing as its an ‘outsider’ team visiting town. This will generate some interest in the club game again and provide the host club some income. Only the really outstanding teams on the platteland, along with some very good development teams from the cities will reach 3 games per year, and of those 50% will be at home anyway.

During round 4 when the medium teams join the competition, only about 125 games remain. Once the bigger clubs join, only 62 games remain. By the time the university clubs and other semi-pro clubs join the competition, there will be 32 games remaining.

The next week the last 16 clubs could automatically enter the current ‘national club champs’, but under a much fairer system than the current one.

Care to chew on the idea for a while. Hopefully you will wake up tomorrow and still think it’s a good idea. And I have not discussed the pro’s yet!

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28 Comments on An FA Cup for Club Rugby?

  1. Ras, that is an excellent idea! I am sure if something like this was presented properly (not after 10 holes at a golf club) to SA Rugby and sponsors they will be keen to invest. Also if Supersport was approached I am sure they will broadcast creating interest in club rugby and getting people involved.

    For the sake of SA rugby we need a good club scene…

  2. We already have the FNB classic clashes aired by SuperSport during the week where school teams from everywhere and anywhere gets to be on TV, this is not so far-fetched as some might think.
  3. Great idea Shields !!!

    Would you have an ‘open’ draw – or have a 1 – 3 round ‘draw’ with neighboring Unions only??

    Will cut travel costs – and ‘localized’ rivalries are sooooo much sweeter. ;-)

  4. Brand its funny that you mention local rivalries being better. In this region people are so bored with playing each other, whereas visiting teams from other regions seem to attract much bigger attention as the ‘us against them’ factor is uniting.

    Yes its more costly but the buzz for players around a tour to ‘foreign climes’ is a big pull for schools players to enter club rugby.

    Imagine the excitement when a small club from Mpumalanga gets drawn to play a Cape Town club away! You’d get 10 extra guys at training as guys jostle to make the first team!

  5. Also if this idea was proposed properly I can see some sponsors jumping at the opportunity to sponsor these events.
  6. Have a look at the structure of the EDF Cup.
    Its works similarly but has split all clubs in the country into three different knock-out competitions in an attempt to pair like-with-like.

    Its a very very enjoyable competition and the clubs earn money the further they progress int eh competition with games at twickenham for the finalists of each division.

  7. Better idea would be to cut traveling costs by regionalising the intial rounds for the small clubs.

    Say the eastern Cape clubs in one ko round, then say Northern Cape, Western cape, Natal, Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Northern Provinces and Northwest.

    Keep it regionalised for the medium clubs

    Then make it national when the big clubs join the fray

  8. DavidS

    My earlier suggestion “or have a 1 – 3 round ‘draw’ with neighboring Unions only??”

    Broadens that somewhat and do bring in the excitement of ‘new blood’ so to speak.

    They can pair say WP with SWD and Boland with Grikwas.
    Bulls with Mpumalanga and Lions with Limpopo , etc.

    for the first 3 rounds

    thereafter you bring in the medium clubs and top clubs. ???????????

  9. I suppose its more realistic to do the first rounds within a region.

    I just think it will be much more exciting that day of the year when say e-tv hosts live the Cup draw for round one.

    And the first game is ………….Tzaneen Old Boys VS Upington!

    The minute the announcement is made these clubs can start marketing the event and end up making a packet hosting such games, just like I believe the smaller clubs do in the FA Cup.

    Just imagine the folklore around a small club who becomes a ‘giant killer’ in round 4!

  10. A bit more detail on the EDF cup.

    You have your top tier sides who play in their own edf cuo. Thats bath, gloucester, gwetn dragons, leicester tigers etc.

    The rest of the country’s clubs are split in two with teams from the frist 6 leagues playing each other and the rest then playuing each other.

    The comp carries on throughout the season.

    They pair teams that are close together first and in the same sort of league first. Then when they’ve knocked each other out the comp moves further and furtehr afield.

    So its basically a local knock-out and then a regional knockout and then a country wide knockout.
    Very much like Daivd’s suggestion.

    In the middle knock-out competition ie. clubs from leagues 2 to 6 (or something like that) the teams from league 2 and 3 dont play the first few rounds. Similarly in the lowest comp.
    They join the comp staggered between week 2 and like week 4.
    This bascially means the mis-match games are cut downa s mcuh as possible as 75% of the teams will fall out in the first two rounds, getting rid of anybody except the strognest teams of the lower leagues.

    Obviously its sponsored by EDF and each round you progress to you get more money plus travlleing if you need to do more than a 100mile round trip.

    Its a fantastci competition but the admin needs to be suoper-organised.

  11. Shields

    I think this is a wonderful idea – and I like it a lot.

    Yes as with anything the logistics and the most effective cost-benefit ratio must be determined.


    I like this – in any way whatsoever.

    This do remind me of the Lion Cup of old.

    Specifically when Suid-Oos Transvaal drilled WP in Witbank – ha ha ha ha :lol: :twisted:

  12. Vinnie

    Thanks for more detail.

    Are you able to – give even more detail.
    I might be sloooower this morning – but just can’t picture the levels of leagues and how they ‘fit’ together.

    during the progressive weeks.

    Sorry ;-)

  13. “Football Association Cup”, never heard of it…is it big?

    apart from that a very good idea and well written piece as always. seems that strengthening our club rugby systems and competitions will only lift the game even more in SA.

  14. FA cup cab dont be a smart arse.

    FA stands for Football Association. There you have learned something new today!

  15. No probs Brand.

    Basically club rugby in the UK is divided into various area sand then various divisions.

    So it works like this (I’m not sure on details but this will give you an idea):

    Level 1: premiersip
    Level 2: national 1st division
    Level 3: national second division
    Level 4: north and south league
    Level 5 to 7: regional leagues encompassing multiple leagues but in the same region
    Level 8 to 10: Local leagues

    Again I’m not sure of the exact structures as it varies from area to area and according to number of clubs etc.

    But there’s a national league like our currie cup.
    Then there are 2 divisions under it which would be our VC.

    After that it starts depending on location. In the london area for exampe you get NW London 1 and 2, SE London 1 and 2 etc.
    Players at this level and above normally get paid to play. Sometimes not much but they normally get paid.

    Then under that you have the county leagues and there’s normally two or three of them. This amkes up the bulk of UK players.
    There will for example be plenty of these sorts of leagues in the area represented by NW London above.

    Every league is then graded and given a level.

    Then when EDF comes around they say all the cup will be contested by sides in the premiership. They run a little league and then a knock-out.
    Then the intermediate vase competition will encompass the next two leagues.
    After that you have a Junior Vase and a Senior Vase and they allocate a few levels to each.

    So basically they run 4 knock-out (I mistakenly named it three comp earlier) compeititons simultaneously all finishing about the same time.

    It is a hidge-podge as they’ve tried to classify clubs into levels indiscrimanently and obviosuly some areas have more clubs than others. But in the whole they’ve done very well.

    The big difference between SA and the UK though, is thatshould you win your league you get promoted to the next league and in theory a club could start in level 10 and win the league every year for ten years and find itself in the premiership competing with bath and saracens etc.

  16. Comment by newshields — July 25, 2007 @ 12:25 pm |Edit This

    Those words blurred and ca couldn’t read them

    His mind refuses to accept the exstence of any sport played with a round ball

  17. The big difference between SA and the UK though, is thatshould you win your league you get promoted to the next league and in theory a club could start in level 10 and win the league every year for ten years and find itself in the premiership competing with bath and saracens etc.

    Comment by Vinnie — July 25, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

    Its here where our travel distances start to hurt. We might be able to afford an FA cup but a nationwide promotion-relegation thingy between leagues is tough.

  18. A wonderful idea that of Rasputin. A National Cup for SA Rugby Clubs.
    I fully agree.
    Bokke weer wereldkampioene…

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