Oval World August/September 2000

Union in FOCUS / A programme for the future

Ian Rawcliffe, the 51-year old President of the German Rugby Union, is a high-powered engineering consultant, who can name the giant German multinational Bosch among his clients.

Rawcliffe lives in Offenbach, home of the club he played for, coached and managed (and of which he is now club President). Although he was born in Burnley in Lancashire. He has been in Germany since he joined the British Forces over 30 years ago, and describes, tongue-in-cheek, “having been a contemporary of Peter Dixon at Oxford”, as the highlight of his playing career. Rawcliffe brought to the job the cool passion for the game of his native England, and the professional expertise of his adopted country.

OW: Where is German rugby now, and what is the way ahead?

IR: German rugby has a distinguished history and a bright future. It is our duty respect the former by making the latter happen. It is time for us to stop seeing the size of our Union as a problem and limiting factor. Quite the opposite is true: this gives us a wonderful opportunity to take all positive aspects of our game and develop them in the right environment in schools in particular. For the amateur statistician, the German Union is the oldest on the Continental Europe, and the eighth oldest on the world, older in fact than French Federation. Rugby has been played in English public schools in Germany since the mid-19th century and is worth mentioning that William Cail, later a President of the Rugby Football Union, played at Klosesche Anstalten in Stuttgart in 1865.

“…four years ago we had only 1,600-1,700 youth we now doubled the numbers, to about 3,000. We aim to doubled again, to about 6,000 within the following four-five years.”

OW: What do you do in practical terms, to develop the game at grass root level?

IR: To start with, the IRB has chosen the German Union as one of the fast-track development Unions, and that means considerable support at all levels. In addition, we are now employing six full-time development officers, taking advantage of the German unemployment laws, according to which the state will pay 75% of the wages of an unemployed person, if a company or institution provides 25% of it. That is a very efficient way of using the finance and we have now development officers in Berlin, Cologne, Hannover, Leipzig, Frankfurt and Heidelberg. We are also making efforts to get rugby in schools, but this is hampered by the fact that we need permission from the regional government in each of the German states. We have set up a league and cup for schools with 60-70 schools taking part, and one of the Vice-presidents, Peter Leue, is directly responsible for development. Four years ago we had only 1,600-1,700 youth players and we have now doubled that to about 3,000. we aim to double again to about 6,000 within the following four to five years.

OW: What is happening at top level, after one of the worst ever seasons in German rugby history?

IR: We made a couple of mistakes in planning the season. As a developing nation, we tried to base the season’s programme on the Six Nations model, that is playing an international every two weeks. That was definitely too ambitious – it was unrealistic within our limited resources. The players got tired and after two matches simply could not recuperate quickly enough to be fresh and ready for the next match. The second mistake we made was to select too many youngsters too early. In other words, although the team played better the lack of experience determined the outcome of too many matches. The National Coach Peter Ianusevici, accepted full responsibility for all that and resigned, but to be perfectly honest, this is hardly his fault and we all share the blame, if there is one. Meanwhile we are sending our best young players abroad, to schools or universities in the leading playing countries to help raise their playing standard.

IRB: “WE in the IRB admire your enthusiasm and your willingness to meet new challenges and will continue to support and encourage your endeavours”. (IRB Chairman Vernon Pugh QC)