The end part of an interesting article titled “Schoolboy rugby – an easy picking for the greedy?” on Ruggas.co.za (click on title for link to full article), suggests that the time might have arrived for a nationally regulated “development fee” to be instituted.
A close to reality recurring hypothetical example is during Grant Khomo Week a promising under-16 provincial rugby player is lured away from School A that he has attended since grade-8, by rich(er) School B. School B thus acquires a strong player who they have little doubt will add value to their all-important 1st XV, possibly the following year and almost certainly the year after that. School A is left reeling. They ploughed in two-and-a-half years worth of time and money resources in the hopes of realising the same benefits that School B will now get to enjoy, not to mention that with immediate effect they are left minus a close to irreplaceable star player.
Does School A deserve financial compensation out of the transfer? And if so how should this amount be determined – school fees/boarding fees/sundry schooling costs/rugby related costs like gym/supplements/medical/coaching etc? And what should the non-remunerated exceptions be – like parents relocate?
Is it a slippery slope to start attaching value to what is meant to be an amateur sportsman? What if the parents of a talented lower age-group player turn around and start demanding that their son’s school enter a formal professional contract whereby they pay him to play for the school, which is something that goes hand-in-hand with a professional like transfer fees?
Must we just accept that we live in a ever-changing world where we need to accept and adapt or suffer the consequences. Your vinyl records might have made a comeback but your rotary dialer phone and your analogue TV are past tense for good. In the same way school rugby evolves, as does school life, school education and even the principles/ethics that we desperately want to cling to, are in constant need of re-evaluation in relation to the modern society we live in. The basics of rugby haven’t changed but so much that goes into developing a successful player and producing a successful team have changed and continue to change. Even the value of 1st XV schoolboy rugby success today as a marketing tool and the pressures to succeed nowadays – can these even be compared to say 10 or 20 years back?
Personally I have always been opposed to the idea of recruiting players from other high schools. To me backing your own boys who have been there all along and experiencing the peaks and troughs that schoolboy rugby teams go through over the seasons is part of the joy of following the sport. Understandably in business those troughs represent bad news and if you didn’t forecast it happening and take reasonable steps to prevent it or at least minimise it’s damage, the question is were you doing your job properly? That challenge to always stay ahead of the curve plays a role in the way headmasters, senior decision-making staff management, governing bodies etc view school rugby now. You can stick to your old values but what does it help your own cause and your own job security if your main rivals are taking full advantage of an unregulated sport to strength their own teams, beat your team and reap the rewards over a longer term (even if there is a bit of a short term fallout or a couple of hiccups along the way). There is a growing demand out there for consistent high achievement. Some schools are feeling the pressure to go out of their way to avoid a “bad year”. It goes without saying that those that satisfy the demand for success can expect to be better off than those who don’t, unless school rugby experiences an unexpected shift in dynamic or the introduction of new regulations that change the ballgame once again. I’m convinced the latter would come as a huge relief to the genuine educators who’s perspective is far greater that an area enclosed within two touchlines and two dead-ball lines.