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Alberta Rugby rule change could lead to sport's growth across province

Alberta Rugby announced last month a rule change that will allow for foreign-born players on all of Alberta’s club teams to be considered “Canadian” after 12 months in country.
Youth rugby players competing in the 2024 Francis Cup at George McDougall High School field on May 11. The Airdrie Highlanders, a member of the Calgary Rugby Union, currently organize U7-U11 rugby teams.

Alberta Rugby, the governing body for the sport in the province, announced last month a rule change that will allow for foreign-born players on all of Alberta’s club teams to be considered “Canadian” after 12 months of residency. 

Previously to this, the rule was that no team could field a roster with more than three foreign-born players on it, unless they had been living in the country for two years. The logic goes that the rule would promote Canadian players playing a sport often dominated by Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans, as well as other countries where rugby is more prevalent. 

For the 14 clubs that belong to the Calgary Rugby Union (CRU), the rule change will help fill some roster spots of their respective senior men and women’s teams. 

The Airdrie Highlanders, a CRU member club, currently do not have senior teams, only minor rugby teams aged U7 to U11. Even though the change may not necessarily apply to the Highlanders right now, the club president said that Alberta Rugby did consult with clubs from across the province. 

“In the next few years,” said Terri Hamilton, the president of the Airdrie Highlanders. “We do anticipate running senior teams and do not foresee any difficulty as a result of the rule change.” 

However, the change will have an immediate effect on the other CRU teams. Of the seven CRU teams outside of Calgary, the Banff Bears, Foothills Lions, Lethbridge Rugby Club, Red Deer Titans, and Cochrane’s Bow Valley Rugby Club all field teams in the senior men and women’s divisions. 

Teams like the Bears, who are able to fill a lot more than just three roster spots with players from places like Australia or New Zealand and have run into some trouble in the past with filling out a completed roster without foreign-born players, lobbied hard for the rule change. 

Other senior-level clubs may also benefit from the rule change, but it’s unknown to what extent. Banff, a mountain resort town with a notable number of transient residents, is uniquely positioned to reap the benefit of the new rule change. 

According to CRU president Pete Rowe, the new rule will be a net positive for the entire league. “[It’s the] fact that we just want the game to grow,” Rowe told the Rocky Mountain Outlook. “People are coming to our country all the time and we didn’t want to stop people from playing who are trying to be part of our society.”

A change to allow for more foreign-born players to populate the rosters of CRU teams– letting more teams compete or even build senior teams when they didn’t have any before– will most likely prove Rowe right. 

If the Highlanders are looking to field senior teams soon, perhaps other CRU teams are too, and maybe letting more foreign-born players play will help do that.

With files from Jordan Small and the Rocky Mountain Outlook. 


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