USA Rugby Adopts New Plan, Sets New Execs

The official word from our national governing body …

3-3-2006 – Board Votes To Adopt New Strategic Plan and Governance Model
BOULDER, Colo.— By a resounding vote of 25-to-1, USA Rugby’s Board of Directors approved to adopt a new strategic plan and a radically different governance model at its meeting here on March 3.

The vote supports the Board’s unanimous AGM vote in November to seize change and grasp the opportunities facing USA Rugby, measured by five goals: 1. Sustain strong growth and participation in rugby in the United States; 2. Be in the top-10 of men’s rugby and top-4 in women’s; 3. Provide great, effective leadership; 4. Raise the profile and respect of rugby in the U.S.; 5. Generate the revenue to secure the future.

The new governance model will initially consist of a Congress, which will meet annually, of representatives from Territorial Unions. A nine-member Board that will consist of one Congress-elected member, two player representatives (one male, one female) and six appointed independent high-impact members whose professional and life experiences can help propel the organization, and the sport, forward.

The organizational model of USA Rugby will be aligned to implement the strategic plan and ensure the policies of the Board can be implemented within available capacity. The employees and Board will be charged with responsibility for developing and implementing the annual operational plans and establishing appropriate networks of volunteers and expert advisory groups to assist them in implementing the strategic and operational plans.

“Following on our initial steps taken last November, I was proud to chair a Board that issued a powerful message today in essence voting itself out of existence and in doing so put the organization above any personal or parochial interests,” said outgoing Chairman of the Board Neal Brendel. “A message that intends to deliver fundamental change in the strategic direction of USA Rugby as well as directing the implementation of a modern, streamlined governance structure suited for the commercial demands of the game and the expectations of our members.”

And then this …

3-3-2006 – Latham To Lead Executive Committee
BOULDER, Colo.—In addition to adopting a new strategic plan and governance model, USA Rugby’s Board of Directors also elected a new Executive Committee, promoting previous vice-chair Bob Latham (Dallas/South) to chair and electing Frank Merrill (Atherton, Calif./Pacific Coast) as vice-chair, Tom Schmitt (Milwaukee, Wis./Midwest) its treasurer and Alex Magleby its player representative (Norwich, Vt./Northeast). David Pelton (Kirkland, Wash./Pacific Coast) and John McConnell (Arlington, Texas/West) will retain their roles as secretary and referees and laws representative, respectively.

And here is Goff’s write-up … subscription required, so in full below.

The Reform Train Keeps A’Rollin’
By Alex Goff
March 3, 2006 – Having committed to significant change there was no turning back, so seemed the thought process at the special Board of Directors meeting in Boulder today.

Was the Strategic Plan perfect for everyone? No, certainly not. There were those who had reservations and still others who successfully proposed changes. And, yes, there was one who voted no. But overall, said incoming USA Rugby Treasurer Tom Schmitt, there was a feeling that the Board had committed to significant reform, and “just like in downhill skiing you have to have the courage and the strength and the commitment to keep going down that hill.”

And so they did.

The Strategic Plan they adopted covers all sorts of topics, and it’s clear that in many of those topics input from the membership can still change the direction of several elements of the plan. It’s not set in stone, as there will be further review in June. But the essence is set – governance structure, vision for the national teams, the idea that all competitions should be reviewed, and effort needed to standardize the season.

Coming out of the meeting the Boardmembers seemed pretty pleased with themselves, and Schmitt said that with all the work that had been done under chairman Neal Brendel’s watch, and all the work done before ASMT stepped in (such as Frank Merrill and Sigrid Valk-Feeney and their oft-tabled but sometimes prescient strategic planning ideas), the Board did deserve a pat on the back.

“It was pointed out to me when I first appeared before the Board on some matter and I gave them a strafing,” Schmitt said. “I was asked how I feel about the Board now. I wouldn’t be a part of an organization that isn’t working toward something; that isn’t doing something positive. This is a good organization.”

Not all agree (something for which many are thankful) and they don’t have to be lifelong friends, but the message seemed to be a common purpose is being fulfilled.

But what might also be missed is that some of the Board want to have their backs patted for being courageous and voting themselves out of existence. But are they removed from the process? The old Board was three representatives from each of the seven territories, plus athlete representatives. The new Board will be different, of course, with two athletes and six independent members appointed for their skills or professional abilities. The 9th member will be appointed by the USA Rugby Congress, an oversight group that meets annually to review the performance of the new Board and is composed of … 21 representatives from the seven territories. In other words, those territorial constituency boardmembers who so graciously voted themselves out of influence instead promoted themselves to an oversight group the old Board never had to answer to.

It’s something out of a conspiracy-theory movie. Accountability remains a watchword in USA Rugby, and accountability was one word often used toward the Board as something that wasn’t there. With the new Board there will be accountability – to essentially the same people who were on the old Board.

But the move was made. The Board will be different; skills based and more change is on the way. Schmitt said more than half the Boardmembers felt a need for expediency in bringing further changes and implementing new strategy. And truthfully is seems very little time has passed since the November meeting that extended into this special session.

USA Rugby does have a new Chairman now in Bob Latham, and Pacific Coast RFU president Frank Merrill is the new vice-chairman. Schmitt is the treasurer, while David Pelton remains the secretary. They are the executive committee.

I’m glad to hear that members feel they are making progress and getting us back on the road, but it will be interesting to see if these committees, like so many, truly makes progress. Kurt Oeler thinks the price tag for this plan might be too much.

Overall, I do think the five objectives were clear, concise and something we can wrap our arms around for accountability and credibility. And are you Eagles ready to be top-4? 🙂



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