What goes on tour…….
The rugby tour. A staple of the game throughout the decades. They come in many shapes and sizes from a quick weekend away to the Vegas of the North; Blackpool to week long trips to somewhere more exotic.
But I’m sure it’s not just me that’s noticed that touring is happening less and less frequently now and I’m not entirely certain why.
It used to be common practice that at least once a season you would host a touring side in a beer fuelled “friendly” followed by beer fuelled singing, followed by beer fuelled hangovers (notice a pattern?). Tours create stories…memories…scars….that you’ll talk about in the bar for years to come. They create stronger team bonds as well as links with clubs in other parts of the globe.
So why the apparent decline?
I think the gradual influence of the professional game at grassroots level rugby has something to do with it (saving that conversation for another time by the way…). Clubs as far down the rugby pyramid as Level 9 are seeing the effects of professionalism in the elite game, with sponsors, league ambitions, long term development plans etc. all meaning that a club tour during or at the end of the season isn’t at the front of the mind anymore.
Interestingly, it seems to be the more “social” sides of clubs nowadays who do actually tour. Our Veterans go every year without fail, perhaps more inclined to touring as it was something they did back in their playing days.
Again, with social rugby there are much less league and cup fixtures meaning not only more time to plan, organise and actually go on tour but also the body and minds are still fresh and wanting to play rugby!
Any First or Second team at a club competition in RFU (or equivalent) leagues will be looking at playing 22+ games a season. By the time April/May comes around, players are looking forward to a break from everything rugby.
I think the major issue is however is a lack of volunteers to actually organise the whole thing. Having just been through the process myself for the first time I can truthfully tell you that it’s a hell of a lot of work BUT…..it is so worth it and if this piece does one thing I hope it’s to encourage you reading it to step up and organise a tour for your club. Yes you’ll have spreadsheets of payments, drop outs and the actual process of getting numerous rugby players through security yet for the memories and storied you’ll gain, it’s a small price to pay.
Here are a few golden pieces of advice.
1. Start small. You may have ideas of South Africa or the Caribbean but if your club hasn’t toured for a while (like mine, it had been 15+ years!) then plan a long weekend away to the UK or Europe. Not only is it less work for you, but more people will be willing to come and that is the idea. To get people back into the habit of annual tours.
2. DIY or Package? So a question faced by not just tour organisers but holiday makers in general. Do you want to plan and organise the tour yourself or go through an operator? Both have plus and minuses. DIY will often be cheaper and you have a lot more flexibility on destinations, times, travel etc. However, you try booking a hotel for 25 rugby players……(Pro Tip: say you are stamp collectors or similar). Everything will fall on your shoulders and will require a lot of leg work.
Going through a tour operator will of course push the price up (don’t forget to get lots of quotes however so you can haggle). You will have somewhat less flexibility but the operator does all the hard work for you. All you need to do is find the people to go and get them to pay!
3. Start early. Not only are things cheaper the further in advance you book them (flights etc.) but it will allow your tourists to pay in small installments rather than one big lump sum. It also means you have more time to do point number 4.
4. Fund raise. Start raising a tour kitty as soon as possible. Fines, social events, raffles….the more money you can raise for tour the better. Depending on how much you get, you may be able to knock some money off everyone’s costs, buy a tour kit or just use it for beer drinking!
5. Helping hands. Sort out a tour committee. 2-3 other tourists who with all the above. Don’t just pick your best mates but maybe a couple of wiser heads who have toured before. Trust me, it’ll help.
Obviously there is a lot more to it than the above, but I can’t stress enough that a rugby tour is an utterly beautiful thing…in its own special way. As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve just organised one for my club and 24 of us headed to Portugal for 4 days. Most of them had never been on a senior tour before but they are all asking me about next year’s already, which is now in the pipeline!
We can’t let this fantastic tradition die out. So just do it. Need some help, advice or recommendations then get in touch and I’ll be happy to help but remember……
What goes on tour, stays on tour!
– The Scrum Down