Wednesday, December 12, 2012

UKRDA & the off-season

The UK is lucky, in one sense, because there's a voluntary, democratic national governing body for roller derby, the UKRDA. Not many other countries have taken this step. This is a huge potential benefit for the future of the game throughout the UK.

However, so far the mission of the UKRDA appears to be to collect signatures and name leagues as members on their website. They have run tournaments in the past, and I have heard that they do an excellent job of it. But it takes more than that to be a useful governing body.

Now, I've heard through the grapevine that the UKRDA is planning on doing rankings and sanctioning bouts in the future. At first, I scoffed at the idea. There are already 5 rankings that cover UKRDA leagues, listed in increasing order of coverage:
  1. Mine, which covers all UK & Ireland travel teams
  2. European Roller Derby Rankings, which covers all leagues in Europe
  3. EuroDerby, which also covers all Euro-leagues
  4. Flat Track Stats, which covers all reported bouts and leagues
  5. DNN Power Rankings, which covers all leagues, worldwide, who are big enough to merit ranking
Thus, a UKRDA ranking would be the 6th scheme to rank member leagues. Not much added value, or so it seems.
Sanctioning, as well, seems a near pointless exercise at first. Just how much extra does it mean for a bout to be 'sanctioned' as opposed to 'unsanctioned'? Will fans pay more? I doubt it. Will unsanctioned bouts not count for the record or something?


A way of getting rid of that pesky closed-bout problem, maybe? Allow teams to play 'friendlies' that don't count, then bout for rankings in sanctioned contests...

UKRDA are on to something here...

This brings me to my second point in the title. More than a few skaters and coaches have stated the need for an off-season in derby. It would reduce the number of stress-related injuries, it would reduce derby-burnout and early retirement, it would give skaters and leagues a chance to get back to basics in training rather than advanced tactics.

The problem is that leagues which observe an off season don't always observe the same ones. LRG's seems to follow the calendar year, whereas CCR's is tuned to football season.

Here's where UKRDA have the opportunity to help the UK derby scene take a massive step forward:

Only sanction bouts between [March] and [September].

I put the months in brackets because the timing is not the point. The point is that UKRDA can offer an incentive for member leagues to observe the same off-season, and thus clean up one issue facing the game. They can simultaneously demonstrate wisdom and good leadership. And they can ensure that their ranking and sanctioning system will have an important place in the UK derby scene.

This is one of those opportunities that don't come around very often.  This is one of those times for a true continental shift in the game. UKRDA, the lack-of-a-ball is in your court. Use it wisely.

Also, let me say, just because UKRDA exist doesn't mean there shouldn't be a Scottish RDA or a Welsh RDU, or even an East Midland Derby Alliance. The South West UK tournament acts similar to the Football League, as does the End of the World Series. These are de facto governing institutions and cooperative unions for their respective leagues.  

It makes a large amount of sense for local area leagues to unionise to share bout planning, venue hire negotiation, council negotiation, etc.  We all want the sport to grow, let's keep working together to make that happen.

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