Comparing HS Rugby Player Dues State-to-State
Comparing HS Rugby Player Dues State-to-State
Earlier this month RugbyNY sent out an email with a detailed PDF on their dues structure.
The email was notable because it’s actually a relatively rare thing. Dues levels at the State Rugby Organization (SRO) level are rarely publicized in this way, and it’s a nice example of a SRO engaging in transparency.
Other SROs do post their dues structure on their websites, but it’s not always obvious how much it costs to be a high school rugby player until you actually go through the dues-paying process.
Well, we did that, going through the process for as many SROs as we could (but not actually completing the membership process, so don’t worry, there aren't actually 30-plus fake memberships out there). Some we couldn’t figure out because the membership hadn’t been open in that state yet (usually for a small reason like finalizing a specific waiver). There were also some stated where the dues listed was $0, which we highly doubted, so with those two categories we followed up with that SRO's leadership. The SROs we contacted responded quite quickly to our requests.
However, we should add that we don't have all the information. Some states might be adjusting their dues level and don't have any fall competition to be ready for. We hope to follow up on them a little later.
So what did we learn, or what can we tell you?
USA Rugby and USA Youth & HS
All players pay $25 to USA Rugby, of which USA Rugby keeps $14 and $11 goes to USA Youth & HS. With a membership of around 30,000, that gives USA Y&HS a dues budget of around $300,00—we say “around” because youth players pay less and the membership numbers are general.
Rugby Xplorer charges a processing fee that is 3.95% of a player’s total dues (USA and SRO).
Oregon Cuts Back
Faced with the need to refund dues in 2020 and a dropoff in dues collection, Rugby Oregon laid off their full-time employees and closed their brick-and-mortar office. They rejiggered their organization with part-time employees and remote working, and have remained as such. As Jeff Arker, who heads up the Board at Rugby Oregon, told us, they shifted from a “what’s nice to have” approach to a “what do we need?” approach. The result was the per-team fee was eliminated and the per-player dues cut from $65 to $50.
Teams ended the season with money in their accounts (which are run by Rugby Oregon), and the SRO concentrated on executing basic skills: remove obstructions to playing, track leagues, secure refs and ARs, secure fields, make sure coaches and officials are trained, and run the playoffs.
Some States Split their Season
In Southern California there is a school-team season in the winter and a club season in the spring. Players register for each season, so those who play in both seasons (and not all do) pay twice.
Rugby Idaho splits its season with Fall 7s having one dues level and Spring 15s another. They also have some Varsity Initiative teams. Rugby PA also splits their registration.
The Varsity Initiative is basically a deal whereby a school that already has its own insurance and own trainers and own sporting infrastructure. So they pay a team fee but not a per-player fee. That fee is $200 per team, but if you’re entering a JV team into competition, that is normally considered a separate team. Most programs in the VI pay the $400.
USA Rugby and USA Youth & HS split the Varsity Initiative fee. SROs can impose a local team fee also, and any SRO has the power to have Varsity Initiative as an option. If you think your program qualifies but don’t see it as an option when you register, you should contact your SRO leadership.
Team Fee Only
Maryland charges a flat team fee only, and some leagues do as well. The Colorado Interscholastic Rugby Association (CIRA), which is a Varsity Initiative league, charges a flat fee to teams to run the competition, for example.
The Highest Fees
All states that have the highest levels of dues have paid administrators. This is the model touted since the early 2000s, to have a full-time paid administrator. This model was based on how Oregon ran their competition when the organization first kicked off in the early 2000s, but the model requires large numbers of membership. In some states it has been difficult to show significant membership growth, and when an Executive Director’s pay is linked to membership dues, the next option is to raise dues.
In addition, some of the higher fees exist because there are more expenses that the SRO has taken on. It could be because the state runs a 7s league in the fall or in the summer. It could be because there are multiple championships whereas in other states there is only one and it’s not run as a major event.
Utah, which is listed as having the highest dues, employs five staff members and runs several leagues throughout the state, including an extensive fall 7s league and Little League 7s in both non-contact (with significant help from the Utah Warriors) and contact. UYR President Mark Numbers said the organization works to make a big deal out of the state semifinals and finals (in several brackets) with live streaming and major stadiums used for the championship games. Costs for referees, medical support, as well as the additional fall 7s run into the tens of thousands of dollars for each. Having several full-time employees also allows for better league organization and disciplinary support.
(Additional note on this—as we said we don't have all the details on the 2022-23 plans, and it could be that some states, Ohio coms to mind, might be higher for this season if they split their dues structure)
The Lowest Fees
Wisconsin charges players $10 and teams $100. North Carolina lists a fee at $15 per player. We talked to Wisconsin Youth Rugby President Richard Bergemann about this (and to confirm the fee was really $10) and this is why the fee is so low:
1. The WYR leadership is all volunteer
2. The individual leagues are responsible for handling championships so they (probably) have some dues process for that
3. The funds brought in are for support when someone needs coach or referee training, and supporting the Rugby Summit that WYR hosts every January
So Wisconsin's approach is, in many ways, the opposite of Utah's, but at the heart of it they have the same goal: make it easier for more young players to play rugby.
|Team Fee Only||CIRA, Maryland, MIAA, SCIRF|
|Lowest Level ($10-$25)||Connecticut, Wisconsin, North Carolina, New Jersey, South Carolina, New York|
|Low-Mid Level ($40-$50)||Washington, Florida, Illinois, Oregon|
|Split Season*||Southern California, Idaho, Pennsylvania|
|High-Mid Level ($60-$85)||Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, Northern California, Indiana, Kansas|
|Highest Level ($100-plus)*||Ohio ($100*), Colorado ($125), Utah ($175)|
|Note*||Fall 7s in Idaho and in Pennsylvania would put them around the mid-level or low-mid level; if you added Spring 15s you'd likely get to the Highest Level|
|Note*||SoCal charges $70 for the winter school-team season and $70 for the spring club season, so if you played in both you'd be in a Highest Level region.|
|Note*||Additional information seems to show that Ohio charges $100 per season, so fall 7s is $100 and spring 15s is $100.|
This list is not intended to tell you that the highest levels or the lowest levels are good or bad; it is intended to give you an idea of what some of the states do and what they don't do.