The IRB Sevens 2011-12 tournament is shaping up to be the most critical in USA Rugby history. Since rugby sevens was announced as an Olympic sport in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the game has gradually gained momentum. In October 2010, USA Rugby was made a full member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), which kicked off the process that will put all USOC resources behind the USA Sevens program.
USOC funds all programs on a four-year cycle, although it is wary of developing programs from China and Russia, rugby program receives support in terms of access to facilities a year earlier training and modest full-time training contracts. The USA Eagles finished 12th in the IRB Sevens 2010-11, but will need to show they can be a medal chance in 2016 to grab a share of the $ 43.5 million + USOC funding.
USOC funding for National Governing Bodies (NGBs) is performance-based. NGBs will be divided into three categories. Organizations qualified as “foundations” will have funding priority. Foundation NGBs are the ones like swimming and track and field that will generate the most medals at the Olympics. The Medal Opportunity NGBs are in second place. These NGBs will likely have a chance to win a medal at the next Olympic Games with sufficient financial support.
The third and all NGBs are defined as “development” organizations. These organizations are unlikely to receive support for their teams from the USOC, but rather support for organizational development and administrative support in areas such as marketing and governance.
The process of assessing the level to which USA Rugby will enter has already started. The USOC takes into account team performance, available medals, the sport’s relevance to the American public, and the resources requested by the NGB.
The USOC will allocate funds to these three categories after reviewing each NGB’s high performance plan, which outlines the programs an NGB plans to lead for its elite athletes and the number of medals they think they are capable of. to win at future Olympics. This process will begin for summer sports organizations over the next two months.
In fact, this means that NGBs like USA Rugby cannot be entirely dependent on the USOC for their success, and instead must develop programs that generate income through increased participation and higher profiles. .
There are already positive signs for the development of the USA Rugby program. They are the hosts of the 2012 Junior World Rugby Trophy where a victory will see them promoted to compete in the 2013 Junior World Cup. They are one of the base teams competing in all events of the IRB Rugby Sevens tournament, and they are hosting a very successful stage of the Sevens tour.
On top of that, rugby participation increased by 350% between 2004 and 2011. The United States has more registered players than Wales and Scotland in absolute terms. Perhaps more importantly for an Olympic sport, the United States now has more female rugby players than any other country in the world.
There is no doubt that winning an Olympic medal will result in massive interest and increased participation in rugby in the United States. However, rightly or wrongly, the USOC does not fund sport for participation or development. He has a clear and unequivocal mandate to win Olympic medals. Securing a decent share of USOC funding as a medal chance is crucial if the rugby union in the United States is to move from a largely participatory sport to the professionalism enjoyed by its counterparts around the world.