With the growing the sport of Rugby, the USRPA takes measures to support and protect their athletes.
Blaine Scully, Co-Founder and Athlete
What is the USRPA?
Scully: We are the professional association and collective representation for all USA Rugby National Team players. Rugby is one of the fastest growing team sports in the U.S. and going through an exciting period of growth. As such, we are keen to establish consistent dialogue with our partner USA Rugby as well as other rugby stakeholders on issues related to player welfare. This is imperative to establishing a solid foundation for future growth based on shared values.
Why was USRPA founded?
Scully: The purpose of the USRPA is to create the highest quality experience for high performance rugby players in the United States. The aim is to protect and promote their welfare in addition to growing the game in the US. The association will serve as the the collective bargaining unit representing all athletes, both female and male, on USAR’s Senior National Teams and as a membership organization for former National Team athletes. Rugby has moved into the era of full-time rugby environments. As such, Players need an organization exclusively for them. This organization should allow representatives to advocate exclusively on their behalf.
How large is your organization?
Scully: We represent all National Team athletes across all four of our teams, which includes both disciplines of Rugby, Fifteens and Sevens. There are roughly 20 to 40 members in each National Team playing pool so that gives us 100 plus members.
Why do you think players associations are important?
Scully: It is important for the success of the game in the United States that the elite players have a collective voice. The relationship between USAR and the USRPA is fundamentally founded on a strong sense of partnership and shared purpose. Both parties are committed to dialogue and collaboration which will allow the players to have input in key issues, but also take ownership in the development of the game. The best “Unions” and leagues around the world are supported by vibrant and engaged player associations.
What brought you to the sport of rugby?
Scully: Originally, I was introduced to rugby by a high school friend during my freshman year at university (UCLA). I finished my final three years and degree at the University of California, Berkeley (Cal). At Cal, I played for two individuals who have greatly influenced my rugby career and life – Coach Tom Billups and Coach Jack Clark. Grateful to the personal contribution of these two men and their continued support and mentorship.
Do you have any initiatives to help rugby grow as a sport?
Scully: Fundamental to our responsibility as an organization is providing relevant resources and functions specific to the needs of all athletes. On and off the field support, player development programs, access to sponsors and partners, career transition support, networking events, medical and financial advice, advice on player agents, insurance. These services will be provided in addition to the negotiation of a Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Rugby has become a very popular sport in College, do you see that translate to a professional level?
Scully: As rugby in the United States continues to become more visible and our audience grows, the appetite for professional rugby will build as well. There is momentum gathering for a professional league launch in 2018. This is of course fantastic, as it offers high level opportunities for athletes, coaches and fans.
How do you ensure that the players’ “voices are heard” and how would you support them?
Scully: The organization must be engaged on a partner level to provide meaningful dialogue with the Union, Third Parties, leagues, etc. while protecting players welfare and promoting best practice. Communication to various USRPA stakeholders will also be vital to the success of the Association. With the help of our partners, the Association will have the ability to keep our members informed, updated and involved. A comprehensive internal and external strategy is crucial. A structured and consistent communication cadence is vital to ensuring the primary stakeholders (current athletes, USA Rugby and alum) are up to date on all association information and informed to engage in dialogue.
What overall trends are you seeing in Rugby?
Scully: It’s a very exciting time – we are trending as one of the fastest growing team sports in the United States and, globally, the game is taking off. With Rugby Sevens in the Olympics and our Women’s game going from strength to strength, the sport of Rugby is well positioned to do fantastic things. Domestically, we hope we can continue to grow participation by driving exposure and playing opportunities.
Where do you see USRPA in 5 years?
Scully: Rugby is in the midst of a defining period where we have exciting growth potential and have experienced some momentum. Now it will be about channeling that growth in an aligned direction. There are a lot of good people working very hard to make this happen. The USRPA’s objective is to support this growth. Through supporting and growing our players, we believe we can grow the game.