Written by Alex Goff    Friday, 23 March 2012 19:14    PDF Print Write e-mail
GoffonRugby: Courts and Appeals and Ramifications
RUGBYmag Premier - Columns and Opinions


USA rugby found itself under some scrutiny as an organization twice in the past week or so, as the Cal playoff decision came down, and then, later, news that the lawsuit from Ruggers Inc/Kooga will be settled.

USA Rugby deserves a little positive press in these bits of news, and so here it is:

 

GoffonRugby is a column on the sport of rugby by Alex Goff.The Cal Issue
The key player in this drama was the College Operating Document. Adopted before last summer, the COD is a document that governs how college leagues and teams operate.

What’s good about it is that USA Rugby has gotten into trouble before because the organization hasn’t had proper documentation to back up its decisions. Certain decisions may be logical, or right, or whatever name you want to put on it, but if there are no by-laws or written policies in place backing up the decision, a determined appellant can argue the decision is arbitrary.

This is where the adoption of the COD, and the insertion of Ed Todd as a sort of “Clerk of the Court” whose job it is to keep track of these types of documents, is crucial. Cal was not admitted to D1-AA competition, despite the fact those making the decision were unhappy about excluding the best rugby program in the history of American rugby, because the rules said they couldn’t be.

You had to announce that you were in or out by June 1, 2011. If you waited until December, you were too late. Them’s the rules.

 

The Lawsuit
The Ruggers lawsuit is, depending on who you ask, more proof that USA Rugby is a bunch of clowns, or an indictment of our civil legal system. I don’t know enough about it, frankly, to say why certain things were done.

Here’s what I do know: both parties worked without a contract for several years. With a deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, this is just plain dumb.

Ruggers sued, in part, to get payment for the kit they provided to USA’s national teams, despite the fact that kit was provided in good faith, when everyone was following the agreement. The court finally ruled, rightly, that you can’t agree to give something, and then later sue for payment because your nose is bent out of shape.

USA Rugby might have ditched Kooga/Ruggers for good reason, but if they did, they needed to put that in writing. Instead they just moved on, bringing about this lawsuit.

A source close to the case, but not from Ruggers or USA Rugby, said all this ended up doing was damaging rugby in America by paying lawyers large sums of money the sport can’t really afford. In addition, the source said Ruggers has received settlements based on the fact that defendants are forced to settle just to make it all go away.

So while USA Rugby personnel made some mistakes, it does seem they were also dragged through a needlessly extended legal case out of bloody-mindedness.

Interestingly, to go back to the first topic, Cal is apparently abiding by USA Rugby’s Appellate Panel’s decision and choosing not to drag the case out further. Do they decide that for the good of the game or because they know they’ll lose? Who cares, it’s the right thing to do in this case.

As for Ruggers/Kooga v USA Rugby, they will settle, but they have a year to decide on exactly how much for. Let’s hope they get over that final hurdle, and move one.

The lesson in all of this? Put it in writing. Get the plans, ideas, rules, agreements, contracts and reasons you're pissed off, in writing. Things work out better that way.