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World Rugby Women's Super Series Event Criticisms

Looking back over the weekend there was a lot of social media chatter about the facilities being used to showcase the Super Series. Most notably Scotty Stevenson's long twitter thread.  I personally and this outlet attempted to correct the record on some of this, we probably didn't stress and validate enough of the criticisms that are completely on target. Here's why: mostly because we know that there are over 50 volunteers busting their bums off to make the trains run on time and give the foreign national team athletes a great experience.  The main contention point for us, is that we were the only Rugby outlet from anywhere present at the match and these allegations were being delivered in absentia and was more or less an attack on people that are working very hard to pull this off.

This isn't to say that there are not legitimate gripes when this was billed as the "Super Series," the Top Five Women's Teams in the World.   And I took a long look at where Rugby was in this country the other day also on twitter.  Would the Men be treated the same?  I don't think so. So that criticism is valid.  But this is where I get annoyed.  Away from the training pitch being used for rounds 1 thru 4 (which is in good condition), the athletes are training in facilities that are as good or even a smidge better than what their Unions have at home.  CVEATC remains the home of Multiple Sports Federations, and that's where France, Canada, and USA are based for the series.  New Zealand and England are training remotely in La Jolla and based out of University of California-San Diego, another great place to train at.  And that's where I got pissed, because there wasn't nuance used to raise the issue, it was hyperbole and an attack.

However the question of the stage, and this is more from an event promotion perspective than playing conditions. Teams are assigned locker rooms, but those are nowhere near any of the training pitches and tents were required to be set up adjacent the pitch.

In 2017, the first Test of any kind I ever attended was promoted by the now dead company Rugby International Marketing a sub-corp of USA Rugby. There were over 1,000 spectators at Chula Vista thanks to some hard work by So Cal Youth Rugby as well.  But it is still a training center with some benches to allow spectators to watch training games.  It's not meant to host Tests.  At the last two rounds there were under 300 (round 1) and under 500 (round 2).  But this gets into the great divide amongst Tier 1 and Tier 2 Unions.  In many ways hosting the Men's Rugby World Cup is much easier than hosting the Super Series.

Pitch Conditions in Rd 2 Photo Credit: Chris Golis

Spectator Facility Photo Credit: Chris Golis

Field Side Change Tents Photo Credit: Chris Golis

The Super Series runs on the exact same timeline as the previous Women's Rugby World Cup.  It is compressed.  It's been said to me that World Rugby stepped up to fund this competition.  Travel and Lodging for all five teams can get expensive.  But where World Rugby did not make any true investment in event promotion and marketing.  There is no reason why all Five rounds of Competition could not be held at Torero Stadium where the final round is being held, you could argue that rounds two and four being in the middle of the week could be taken to Chula Vista.  However, when you show up and the only food for purchase are over-priced Acai Bowls and Beer.  There is no merchandise for sale from any Union competing.  World Rugby Shop stated that there won't be any Canterbury merchandise available until the end of July when they announce the Men's World Cup kit.  We're at a training pitch and this is the event experience, is casual fan coming back? So I definitely agree with everyone who says the stage is inadequate.

Yet, I would appreciate more nuance used here, because it was more like: "Hey, USAR, you're hosting the Super Series, we know you're broke, but figure it out." USAR over a period has screwed up a lot of things, but given the shackles, I wouldn't even call them constraints, that our Women's program has upon them we're currently making a whole lot of Lemonade out of the Lemons being given to us.  USA Rugby did issue a response to the criticisms levied:

If there is criticism for this event, it needs to be thrust directly at World Rugby.  Much like when the US was given a World's Series Stop (Which almost bankrupted the Union), the US has a limited capacity to promote events and to a standard that this event should demand.  Most of this is due to financial struggles, some of which the Union has brought upon itself through mismanagement.  But a lot of that comes from the main revenue driver of all Rugby in the World: Men's National Teams, for the US is not a revenue driver.  In fact, most Tier 2 Unions struggle to fund their Senior Men's programs.  So what does that get us to where the Women Eagles are?  They're as good as they more in spite of everything that drags them down.

Being able to host an event of this stature for anyone in the Rugby World should excite someone.  However, previously we've barely played over 4 Women's Tests per year, our Men's schedule is just an unpredictable although the ARC has helped a bunch.  But to provide the proper stage for these teams, in any location in the US, not just San Diego there needed to be a World Cup-Like marketing effort and significant investment from World Rugby to drive awareness in the market.

So many of World Rugby's Women's events have been focused on how they get it done and not lose any money.  Which is funny, because if they looked at the Women's game like FIFA did, the Ireland Women's Rugby World Cup would not have been deemed a success.  The facilities used for a majority of the the WRWC were extremely small, capacity barely more than what the bench seating at Chula Vista supports.  UCD Bowl has 1500 seats.  Billings Park had no seating capacity whatsoever, there was a pop-up site built with 2000 seats, Upper Malone at Queen's University Belfast had 400 seats.  The only stage for that World Cup was Kingspan Stadium.

And perhaps what annoyed me the most was lack of international media in attendance for this event.  I remember covering USA-Scotland and the Scottish media party was 8 writers from various outlets in Scotland.

~Aaron Castro