Rugby dealt blow as Mariners withdraw from men’s league
Sean Field-Lament, the Bermuda Rugby Football Union president, has conceded that his sport is facing huge challenges after the withdrawal of Mariners from the men’s league.
With the domestic season set to start next week after being delayed from October, the BRFU has been dealt a major blow ahead of its resumption with Mariners, one of only four clubs in the league, pulling out as a result of the lack of a players.
While Field-Lament is adamant the season is still set to run with a three-club format, and that Mariners will still compete in the women's touch-rugby league, he admitted that solutions are required to help safeguard the future of the sport on island.
“I can sadly confirm that Mariners men's team has withdrawn from the 2022-23 league competition due to a lack of a sustainable men's players pool,” said Field-Lament.
“This is a truly unfortunate development for local rugby. The BRFU is hopeful that Mariners men’s team can return to domestic rugby as soon as possible and a goal of four teams competing for the season-ending Nichol Shield is still on the cards.
“Mariners have a great history and are a proud club. I have no doubt that this is devastating for their core players and alumni. I have a deep empathy for what they are currently enduring.
“The BRFU is very sympathetic to the circumstances that has led to this decision and hopefully with the support of the rugby community we can find a sustainable solution.
“Hopefully the BRFU can weather this rough patch and help Mariners men's section bounce back. Mariners have been part of the rugby community all of my 38 years of involvement and while this is a setback, it is also an opportunity to reset.
“The BRFU and I are also resolute in resolving the myriad challenges we have, be that a permanent home for rugby, addressing the Mariners men’s situation and/or finding a suitable and sustainable men’s league format as soon as possible.
“This may mean some changes amongst player development and deployment from the traditional paths but I am sure the local rugby community will embrace what's best for the sport.
“I am resolute that a sustainable solution will be found and rugby will continue to be a positive presence in the Bermuda sporting landscape.”
Reflecting on the issues facing domestic rugby, Field-Lament cited the lasting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the devastating impact of the dwindling number of volunteers, who play a vital role in keeping the sport going.
“Like all other national sports governing bodies, rugby has experienced some extreme hardships with the lingering impact of Covid after a prolonged absence from sporting activities,” he added. “We have seen athletes either retire or move on to other sports.
“Over the last six years, I have also seen the heartbreaking decline in volunteerism. Volunteerism is essential to keep amateur sports alive in our community. I believe Covid has had a negative impact in participation and volunteerism; consequences that will take concerted efforts by all to overcome.”
Despite the daunting challenges faced by the governing body, its president is steadfast in his belief that there is still cause for renewed optimism.
“Certainly this is a blow but there are really encouraging things happening elsewhere in Bermuda rugby,” he said.
“Our youth programmes are up and running with more than 150 children involved at the National Sports Centre every Sunday. I know there are fledgeling plans to take several age groups on overseas tours and I would encourage parents and youth players to take advantage of these opportunities.
“The BRFU is also really excited and looking forward to reigniting the high school competitions and seeing rugby return to the school sports curriculum after the prolonged Covid-induced hiatus.
“I have said before, and I stand by comments, that BRFU’s greatest potential for growth and success is with women's rugby. The ladies touch league is strong and we are developing a tackle programme to complement the women's national team under the coaching of Alvin Harvey.
“The men’s national 15s team are reigning Caribbean champions and recently defeated a very strong Gibraltar squad. Our national men’s sevens team continues to consistently preform at the highest levels regionally and are in the CAC games later in the year. We have so much potential.”