Jerry Gallion & True South Geographic Union’s Evolution and Representation

From USA Rugby: ‘Effective with the opening of the 2011-2012 Competitive Season, the USA Rugby Board named four Geographic Unions (GUs) as part of a pilot program to review a new streamlined union structure to support anticipated growth in the game and to provide increased member services in the local areas. Geographic Unions (larger than typical Local Area Unions and smaller than current Territorial Unions) are defined based upon a combination of club density in an area and natural geographical boundaries.’ The total process was projected to take approximately 4‐5 years to complete. True South was not one of the original 4 geographical unions.  For the 2012-12 season the Deep South and Mid South Local Area Unions joined to form the True South Geographic Union.


In October, 2012, published an email exchange in which Jerry Gallion (representative to the True South Geographic Union) answered questions about the evolving True South structure and dues implications.  That email exchange was in response to one of the evolutionary issues encountered by youth and high school rugby clubs with the simultaneous advance of USA Rugby’s shift to state-based governance for the youth and high school game. State Rugby Organizations (SROs) have now been established in most states to govern youth and high school rugby.


As the Geographic Union pilot plan was beginning, colleges and universities were starting to go their own way and form their own competitive leagues or conferences. The Div. 1 universities formed the SEC Rugby Conference   and area Div 2 & small colleges formed the Deep South Collegiate Rugby Conference


 At the January 2013 USA Rugby Congress meeting, it was approved that the GU structure would no longer be considered a pilot program and would be fully adopted as the local governance model for Club Rugby moving forward.


The following is a link to the teams that currently participate in the True South Union


Prior to the USA v Ireland match (June 8, 2013) members of the USA Rugby Congress and Board of Directors met in Houston with USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville to address appropriate revisions to the USA Rugby by-laws resulting from the intentional division of the administration of the sport in the USA, described above.  The following are Jerry Gallion’s observations on issues facing the emerging True South Geographic Union –


The current by-laws, which include how Congress representatives are chosen, reflect the old Territorial Union governance model, one which has now been overtaken by events. The current by-laws provide that Congress is made up of three representatives from each of the seven Territorial Unions, plus a 20% contingent of international athletes to comply with USOC requirements. But the recent separation of the youth and high school (SROs), college (conferences), and senior club rugby into three separate “silos” left the Congress made up of representatives only from senior clubs. That, combined with the evolution of the governance model from the two-level Territorial Union/Local Area Union structure to the single-layer Geographic Union structure, resulted in no representation on the Congress for youth and high school rugby or college rugby or from the GUs directly. The challenge for the Congress was to settle on a fair and reasonable mechanism to ensure appropriate representation by youth and high school, college, and senior club rugby interests.


After a long and lively debate by the Congress members, a compromise was reached in which youth and high school rugby interests would have ten representatives, college rugby interests would have ten representatives, and senior club rugby interests would have sixteen representatives, which, when combined with the requisite number of international athletes (nine) would result in a Congress of 45 members. The by-laws committee of the Congress will draft and propose revisions, including the mechanisms for each “silo” to select or elect its Congress members, and it is likely that the current Congress will approve them later this year.  The Youth and High School Committee and the College Management Council have already determined how their representatives will be selected. The sixteen senior club representatives will be elected geographically, two from each Competitive Region under the new Club Competitions Structure that becomes effective on September 1, 2013.  For the True South GU, that primarily means that its representation will come from individuals elected in National Competitive Region 2 (NCR2), geographically very similar to the old USA Rugby South Territorial Union, although some of the True South GU’s actual geography now lies in the American Competitive Region 4 (ACR4, a/k/a Red River Rugby Conference) to the West.


A significant challenge facing the True South GU, and all of its counterparts across the country, is retention of the players  who are being introduced to rugby and developed through the youth and high school and college “silos,” by the senior clubs within the union. Current statistics, although primitive, indicate that only a small percentage find their way into the club game. In my view, that is directly related to the maturity and effectiveness of administration at the senior club level. Every club with aspirations earnestly wants to improve its infrastructure, its management, its coaching, its level of play, its ability to recruit and retain quality players and administrators, its relationships with its home community,  the visibility of rugby and its local “brand” or image, its sponsorship and financial stability, its plan for the future.  Most need help finding and using the right tools to do that. USA Rugby has recently appointed a Club Director (Jim Snyder), charged with developing a plan to address the retention issue. This is a big challenge, and I have told him that I believe it is directly linked to the vitality of the individual clubs. Giving them tools, best practices, the benefit of the experiences of others, simply a leg up, is critical to achieving  retention of young folks who are now learning the game.




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