Attn: Nigel Melville.
It is time for you to return to the homeland. You’ve been around for close to 10 years ‘running’ American Rugby and have absolutely nothing to show for it. You have a chance with one of the world’s leading rugby reporting newspapers, “The Guardian”, to tell the story of what YOUR plan is for American rugby. I say YOUR plan, because it is YOUR plan (well it would be if a plan existed). All the marvelous points you make about the plight of USA Rugby, our performance at RWC2015, and the pointing of fingers away from yourself and your group for the results of hard decisions poorly made (or even not made) during your tenure are pathetic and shows no comprehension of the LEADERSHIP required by a CEO at any level. It is not our play that is embarrassing any more, it is our barren leadership.
I have done a lot of research, study, communication and collaborating with dozens of vested American rugby people since my epiphany last week, that American Rugby is mediocre at every level (not the USA 7’s of course, but that is a completely different cup of tea – lots of that in England when you arrive home). I know it is mediocre, cause it was mediocre 30 years ago, is mediocre now, and NOTHING has changed. Everyone in the country knows it, everyone in the world knows it. Years of missed opportunity. And you have personally had close to 10 years to bring us out of mediocrity, and we are worse than we were at the beginning of your tenure. This is your deal now, OWN IT. The lack of collaboration and coalition building at the USAR Board level is a disgrace. Rugby leaders throughout the USA feel like they are operating in a silo, 100’s of people running on the hamster wheel – doing a lot of work, but really achieving nothing in the overall scheme. Imagine what we could do if these people had a road map, something to show them their work is leading to something and for the greater good. More numbers sure (not because of you and your group), but because of the tireless work of hundreds (thousands?) of people who just love the game in the USA. They do this not for money, but for love. And you have given them nothing to measure and achieve success. And to top it off, are we to understand that this ‘RIM’ is a for profit company that will directly benefit from the choice of this “ProLeague” outfit and that you and other board members may personally financially gain from this venture”. I hope that’s not true, because if so – it is an abuse of power and privilege like none I have seen in this sport.
The lethargic and apathetic tenure of your participation in this article in the Guardian, crushes the last remaining vestiges of any confidence I have in you, and this is true for the hundreds of hard working people in the American rugby community who I have communicated with this week also. You gave it a go. There is no confidence. Please, the best you can do for us now is leave.
You are not a scapegoat. You are the culprit. You have held the senior leadership role in USA Rugby for close to a decade. This interview gave you an opportunity to come clean, talk about any plan, lend confidence to the rest of the world you could lead yourself out of a paper bag, yet there you remain – stuck in the bottom. Take some responsibility, man. You don’t even care enough to try and make excuses, that’s how apathetic and shameful this situation is.
Here is the article I will refer to…
What?? No knee-jerk reaction. Yes, that is good for you – allows you more time to wallow in mediocrity.
Step away. Leave your legacy with someone that knows what they are doing, and as a very minimum accepts responsibility and accountability for their failures. Like I have said, its not the losing I mind – its the acceptance of mediocrity that gets us (and now it is ‘us’ because I have heard if from EVERY SINGLE PERSON I have spoken to. Not 99%, but 100%
Here are some quotes and my thoughts…
“Did we play to our potential?” Melville asked. “No. But the level of play at this World Cup was extremely strong, as strong as I’ve seen.”
TR: Oh, perfect. We have identified we did not play to our potential. The level of play is ‘strong’. Well how about doing something and LEADING us to become strong. How many coaches have you had in your tenure? 4? Maybe the problem is not the coaching, its the selector of the coach. Like really, I have been a bit unfair to Coach Mike Tolkin, he has had good success the level he has coached. But is HS rugby really the stepping stone to a job coaching against teams that are coached by Eddy Jones. You brought a knife to a gun fight. I would like to say that Tolkin did his best, but according to those I have spoken to close to the team (i.e. in the team) numerous comments on the feedback was ‘the coaches were lazy, we are very disappointed in this experience). This isn’t slanderous, these are words said to me and written to me. Where is the oversight? Oh, of course – the top dog, the leader – the CEO. You!! The accountability starts with you. And you just phoned it in.
“Remember, we led Scotland at half-time, and that wasn’t by good fortune. The team played very well and were the better side to that point. They just weren’t able to take it past 40 minutes to 60 and 80.
TR: Perfect, when the ‘First Half World Cup’ gets played, sign me up for tickets. Ok, we played well for a while. That is the standard now apparently, play well for 30 minutes? Raise the bar, man.
“The teams with amateur players have now gone home,” Melville said. “And of course so have England, so we’re in good company there. But you look at those teams knocked out: Canada, Georgia, Namibia, us … we have squads containing a number of amateur players
TR: Nice sounding quote, this is all true. Only problem is the teams you reference, Georgia, Namibia, Canada, etc.. throw in Romania and others – would all kick our butts around the field (ok, not Canada – they are even more lost than we are now). We were pushed around in the scrimmage by Japan! How does that happen? You compared the USA to England – who had to play Australia (who should win this thing) and Wales (who are a VERY good team). How can you make even an attempt at this humor. The only company we are in is with the grass, the grass that touches the team name that is on the bottom of the tournament ladder as it sits on a field. #20/20
“There could be knee-jerk reactions,” Melville said of the post-World Cup picture, perhaps having read some of the angrier internet message boards serving the American rugby community, where calls are rife for a foreign coach like Eddie Jones, the Australian who worked wonders with Japan. “Blame the coaching, the players and so on. But it isn’t going to be like that.”
TR: Nigel, this is the deal killer. This quote is the end of your line. (Oh, are there angry messages on internet boards? :-)). You are right, don’t blame the coaching – don’t blame the players (how could you possibly blame the players after coaches were identified as ‘lazy’ in post tour debriefs).
Blame? Blame the person responsible for choosing the coaching, for creating the culture around the national team (or supposed to be). Who is that person? Nigel, you can answer that by looking in the mirror. It’s you. CEO. Chief Exec. The Big Cheese. You are responsible when it goes good, and you are responsible when it doesn’t. We are mediocre, we have been for years – and nothing has been done to change that.
Make a knee jerk reaction. Resign. Do us a favor – at least leave us with someone that can make something happen, and if it doesn’t lends some transparency to the matter.
To close out: Here is how the interview should have gone down…
Guardian: “Well Nigel, how about an assessment of the World Cup for American Rugby and plans for the future”
NM: “We didn’t play well in this tournament. We really couldn’t expect to. I chose a coach who’s highest real level of experience was with a high school team in New York. They did win a lot of USA Championships but apparently that didn’t translate to well on the Worlds biggest stage. We have a lot of amateur players. In fact they are so amateur we decided to tolerate a staff that the players identified as being lazy, so its really a self fulfilling prophecy. That’s why I make amateur decisions. It’s why I cannot seem to work with other groups in American rugby that actually bring something to the table, like USA 7’s, CRC, etc.. Our/my ego is so big that if we don’t control it, or ‘profit from it’ we don’t want it. But now, with RIM and the ProLeague – all of us who have worked so hard on the board now have an opportunity to financially gain from a decision that we made without vetting the provider – and we are looking forward to many more years of development and progress in USA Rugby.
Final comment… and I will be the first to commend you. You have announced that USA Rugby would like to host the RWC in 2027. This might be the first successful think you have done. If we host the RWC 2027, that means we are guaranteed a spot to play in it – an outcome not necessarily looking so bright at this time. Well done.