Planet Rugby

Letter of the Week

15th May 2014 17:48

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Our readers are never short of an opinion and our mailbox is seldom empty. This week, an angry parent lets the German Rugby Federation have it!

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Something is rotten in the state of Germany
By an Angry Parent

I have read with interest your and other sites' coverage of the German national team's rise and rise, to the stage where the team is on the brink of the World Cup, with interest. I am very happy our national team is doing so well. Hopefully now we can get people to see the bigger picture as well, see how appallingly stuck in their bureaucratic ways the federation is, and see how hundreds of German rugby-playing children are being let down by their governing body.

There is a reason the national coach is scouring countries outside of Germany for players of German heritage, and that reason can be traced back to the national league, its reforms, some of its participants and particularly the administration.

I will not go on about the national league at senior level too much. A league hegemonized by two professional teams out of, where teams regularly beat others by a hundred points, where several games this season were either cancelled or called off because one team had too few players... that all speaks for itself. The league drags on and on, continuously changing dates for no good reason, forcing people to change plans, holidays, family. And the federation wonders why there are no sponsors or spectators.

But adults can be persuaded, can be patient, can attempt to understand, can make plans.

Children cannot.

The reason I write this letter is that the German Federation is currently in lockdown, having refused an entire club, and several teams from other clubs, entry to the national youth team championships - at U12, U14, and U16 level. These are due to take place in late May.

The reason for the refusal is that the applications for player passes were made late.

Let's be very clear, we are talking about children here. These are not people who can flit from club to club, not people who receive boot money, not people who will pop over from overseas to play a tournament. These are children - and in German children's rugby, there is only one meaningful competition every year. This is it. For some kids from more isolated clubs, who train conscientiously all year round, even through the brutal German winter, this is the only competition they will play in where they get a chance to go mano a mano with others as talented as they.

For administrative reasons, this is being denied.

What administrative reasons? Well, as said, the application for passes was made late. In many cases, this is an application that can be dealt with by looking at a pass from last season, stamping 'approved, 2014/15' on it, and sending it back. The cutoff date for pass applications is December 31, five months before the tournament itself. A lot can happen in five months. The reason the date is so early, relative to the tournament (May 24 this year) is apparently to stop clubs joining together to form one team... but that has no relevance to any of the clubs in the current situation.

Alright, there's a date. And responsibility needs to be taken at the club or clubs in question. And administrative fines can be paid, even to employ a cockatoo with a strong beak to help with the pass-stamping. But to stop children playing at all? What?

And stressed? Excuse me? Are the parents who drive the children to and from training, to and from games, paying the money for tours and equipment also not stressed? The whole year round? Are the managers of teams, who also do full-time jobs and have families of their own also not stressed? The coaches likewise? And yet some anonymous bureaucratic lackey cannot give permission to stamp a few passes and send them back, or enter the names into an excel sheet?

What a waste of everyone's time. And the children, now, are suffering, exactly the generation German rugby needs not to suffer if they are to stop having to scour foreign shores for the next generation of national players - one of the national coach's longer-term ambitions.

The clubs involved expected to be fined, are happy even to contribute fines as a way of swelling what we are told are perpetually empty federation coffers.

But to deny the children a chance to play? This cannot be right. What is a rugby governing body here for if it is not to facilitate young men and boys to play rugby?

So we ask now for public support from all over the globe, to please at least let the German Federation see the error of its ways, to fine the club in whatever hefty measure it feels appropriate, but please for God's sake, let children play rugby.

Yours in rugby, a deeply disappointed parent of an inconsolable 13-year-old, who is considering giving up the game and hasn't been training for a week. And I wouldn't blame him, I would blame the Federation.

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