I developed the Tees Valley
Leagues in 1997 - 1998 to fill a gap in the local Rugby Union scene in and around the
Middlesbrough area of the North East of England.
I thought it was important for the continuation and development of rugby to have vigorous
lower teams in clubs as they are usually the ones that spend the money behind the bar and
promote the camaraderie and traditional values that first attracted me to rugby.
In my opinion they are an essential part of any successful rugby club but are often
overlooked, as the main focus of most clubs is obviously the 1st team.
The need !
It was also apparent that the attitudes and circumstances
of players had changed significantly since I started playing the game some 30 years ago.
In those halcyon days, it was the normal practice for 1st & 3rd
teams, 2nd & 4th teams to travel 2- 3 hours to a fixture.
This was in my club no longer an option for many players
as the changes in local working practices meant that while they were available for
Saturday afternoons distance travelling meant that they could not actually play.
I spoke to players and officials in other rugby clubs in the area and as expected found
that they had similar problems and were all experiencing a loss of players.
In order to stop this drift of players from the sport I felt a meaningful competition for
players in the lower teams of clubs with a minimum of travel was needed.
Because of the geographical position of
Middlesbrough, a competition to fulfil the perceived needs would involve teams from County
Durham and Yorkshire Rugby Unions.
The Tees Valley Leagues
competitions were therefore developed as a complimentary competition and not to replace
any of the County competitions (if they existed) that teams were already involved in.
A game being played in the
Anyother League for instance could also qualify for inclusion in the Tees
Valley Leagues by completing the Tees Valley League game card.
The Incentives !
Other factors I wanted to have in the competitions were
tangible incentives; many players at all levels complete their careers in the game with no
trophies on show at home and while fond memories are the lifeblood of post match
conversations something to show the kids I felt would not go amiss. As a wearer for many
years of 1st team hand me down shirts I also felt that a set of new
shirts for the competition winners was also desirable.
The rules !
The rules I felt should try
to reflect reality at grass roots level in clubs, I have tried take into account that
there may not always be 15 players available, but a game with 12 a side is far preferable
in my experience to no game at all. The desire to play games explains the reasons for some
of the rules and the desire to play the game in the right spirit explains the absence of
other rules. I have tried to keep the rules as simple and as explicit as possible and rely
on clubs to field players of the appropriate level rather than have long and involved
qualification criteria, as after all the aim of the competition is to provide interesting
and fun local rugby.
I wrote to all the rugby clubs in a 30
mile radius of Middlesbrough and explained the concepts behind proposed leagues and
invited them to a meeting to discuss the possibilities. The following was developed as a
guide to the level of teams I invited to compete in the competitions: North One & Two
League Clubs fourth teams, Durham and Northumberland Division One & Two League Clubs
third teams and other clubs first or second teams.
At the inaugural meeting the enthusiasm for a
competition and the teams wanting to join highlighted the need for two leagues in order to
accommodate teams at the same level. This resulted in the formation of the Merit and
Rewards and Sponsors
Thanks to the generosity of the
league sponsors there is now an annual presentation of a set of shirts for the winners of
both the Merit and Social Leagues, an annual team trophy plus individual trophies for 25
players from each of the winning teams.
There will also be a presentation of an annual
trophy for the runners up in both leagues.
I have always been impressed with the Tour de France cycle
race winners yellow jersey concept so the shirts the winning teams in the Tees Valley
Leagues receive are in colours other than their clubs with logos advertising them as
League winners for that year.
There are two free pints for each player and for two
representatives of each team plus the Clubs League representatives at the presentation
night at the end of the season.
I initially provided Match results cards for the team captains to
complete and the rules worked well in the first year. The only contention stemmed from my
decision to consider as eligible for inclusion in the leagues all games played by
competing teams. This I thought was in keeping with one of the original reasons for the
development of the competitions which was to try and ensure as many games as possible were
However, in order to avoid teams with a chance of carrying
off the title cramming extra games each week at the end of the season, only the first 3
games played against each team were considered that season. This experiment
was abandoned as players indicated that as the leagues become a little more competitive
they would prefer the format changed to the standard home and away for the season.
I would like to hope that these competitions are not
static but will continue to develop to meet the rugby needs at this level in the Tees
As local games in my opinion promote a more vigorous
interest and there is also a greater likelihood of players staying in the oppositions
clubhouse for a few pints after the game, I think it is in the interests of rugby clubs
and players to get involved in competitions like this, so please feel free to use any
information on this site that is of use to you.
Keep playing with those odd shaped balls !!!
Tees Valley Leagues