Women’s Qualifier Event 2018 - Update

Having received recent feedback regarding the Women’s Qualifier event due to take place on 4th-5th August 2018 at Edenbridge RFC, the Women’s Committee revisited the subject of whether or not to hold this event or change the format to split into two regions. However, after much consideration, it has been agreed that the Women’s Qualifier event will go ahead as planned for this year in one location.


This decision was not made lightly, and a lot of time was spent discussing all of the options available.  Ultimately there was no clear alternative to the proposed qualifier event that would be considerably better for the majority of teams, especially those teams that had already accounted for the one Women’s Qualifier event to be held as originally published. 


Please note that teams will need to enter on the assumption that the event will be over two days. If the competition can be done in one day then we will aim to do so, however, we cannot make this decision until entries have closed and final numbers are confirmed. 


Why are we holding a Women’s Qualifier?

We know that’s a question that a lot of teams are asking, but not holding a Women’s Qualifier isn’t a nice scenario to be in. 


If there is no Women’s Qualifier, you either need to find another way to determine who gets a spot at Nationals or you just invite everyone to Nationals itself. The problem with the former is that it gets very messy. Due to being part of EUCS there are much more stringent roster rules and eligibility criteria. The way we’ve done it in the past means that teams could just qualify from Tour, but we’re afraid that this doesn’t work anymore unless Tour becomes more strict as well. By keeping them separate - Tour and the Qualifier - it means teams that cannot commit to all Tours are not excluded from Nationals, players can take part in both Mixed Tour and Women’s Tour, and the decision about which division players want to play for in the Regional/Qualifier events doesn’t have to be made all the way back in February/March.


Inviting everyone to Nationals causes its own problems. For several years now we have been running fixed division numbers for all 3 divisions - 8 Women’s, 8 Mixed and 16 Open. This means we can make UKU Nationals the elite event of the season that it is, giving teams the opportunity to play in conditions that more closely meet those found at international tournaments, for example having all game lengths at 90 or 100 minutes. However, moving towards an unlimited number of teams for one of the divisions means that this will almost certainly be impacted and the aim of having one tournament where the focus is just on the elite teams is removed. A Women’s Qualifier/Regional event gives us a legitimate and fair way to determine who qualifies for UKU Nationals, who qualifies for EUCF, whilst also allowing lower level teams an opportunity to play an event that does not have the pressured stakes of Nationals but that offers a different purpose and approach than Tour and this is important for development of the division.


Also, by having a guaranteed number of teams at UKU Nationals  i.e. 8 or 16, you can ensure that the format is fair enough for everyone to have a shot at qualifying for EUCF, because unfortunately, as soon as you end up with any other number, you have limited control over what you can do i.e. because of the maximum number of games you can play per day. For example, if everyone in the Women’s division went to Nationals because no Women’s Qualifier was held, the format would end up being a lot harsher, and likely be held with short games in comparison to the other divisions in order to accommodate the number of teams. 


So, taking all of the above into account and the feedback we’ve received from teams, it was concluded by the Women’s Committee that the fairest option for this year is to hold a Women’s Qualifier event so that everyone can get a fair shot at qualifying for UKU Nationals, with the top teams going on to compete for a spot at EUCF. 

But why haven’t we split into North/South Regions? The Women’s Qualifier location is quite far South which makes it more difficult for Northern teams that are interested in Nationals.

Following the unsuccessful attempt to run 2 regions for a Women’s qualifier in 2017, where only 1 team entered the North Region and 5 in the South, it did not seem like the logical step at the beginning of the season to hold the same events in 2018. To try and build the Women’s Qualifier into the season, and  maybe to move to split Regions in the future, the option to hold one qualifying event seemed like the sensible option, especially seeing as we didn’t think there would be enough interest from teams to split between two venues. 


Given the lack of teams that entered in the North, the data that we were presented with suggested that it would not necessarily be beneficial to hold the event alongside the North Open and Mixed divisions as only one team was previously interested in attending at that venue, and with that, it did not seem fair to make the majority of teams travel from the South when that was where the teams that were mainly interested in the event last year were from. We did consider holding the event in the Midlands, but when weighed with the limited venue options and the fact that in the past many teams have indicated to us that they prefer being able to attend the same venue as partners/friends/their club in other divisions, holding the event at Edenbridge RFC alongside Mixed South seemed sensible. Also, it was taken into account that the venue has reasonable transport links, being close to the airport, motorways, and the local train station which has a direct line to London. 


However, when faced with new information that more teams were interested in attending a North event, we did seriously consider the option of holding two Regional events instead of just one Qualifier. We understand that many women want to play closer to home, and teams may struggle to get a team to go all the way from the North down to Edenbridge, especially when the Mixed division event is a lot closer. But unfortunately, one of the main contributing factors which meant that we did not go down this route was that after taking a fresh look at the EUCF bid allocation procedure, the North would have only received 1 bid for Women’s Nationals, whilst the other 5 bids would have gone to the South (in comparison to the 6 spots that would be available at the one Women’s Qualifier event). Taking into account that 2 of the ‘Northern’ teams out of 6/7 were happy to go to the one Women’s Qualifier, where they would technically have a greater opportunity to qualify due to there being more qualifying spots available, it did not seem fair to reduce those teams’ opportunity when they have clearly expressed an interest in making it to Nationals whatever the situation. At this late stage in the 2018 season we feel we are making the best decision for most teams, however, if teams ever have any feedback about upcoming seasons, we encourage teams to contact us early so there is longer to discuss and review the options available.  


It became clear to us that holding this one Women’s Qualifier is actually really important. We can build a precedent for the future as we’ll have clearer data showing exactly how many teams from each Region are interested, and by giving teams from both the North and the South a more equal chance at qualifying for the first year, it would mean that we would be in a much better situation to avoid there being just one bid for either of the regions in the future. We understand that teams have expressed an interest for us to hold both a North and South Regionals this year, and that you might argue that if teams are saying that they’ll enter if we put it on then we should put it on, but the UKU has had experience with teams not always following up on their best intentions and we are concerned that this may happen again. This would leave us with two events that can’t go ahead because not enough teams have entered either. So before we move forward with these developments, we need to know that teams can get the numbers to go to an event at this time of year in the first place, especially when there is the impact of the Mixed division being held at the same time.


So ultimately, what we’re asking is that for just this year, you rally your team to come together and make the journey to Edenbridge to make this year’s qualifier a success. The only way we can make these events work is by everyone being in it together, taking a sort of ‘leap of faith’ to get us going in the right direction and launching UK women’s Ultimate to its next phase in development. If you attend it gives us the information we need to push forward and develop this event and to enable us to split into North and South regions without negatively impacting teams in the future. 


Women’s Ultimate has grown tremendously in the UK, and we are now at a stage where a qualifying event is necessary for the competition structure. Teams that enter this year will help shape how that is structured in future years, be it in the form of regional events or singular qualifying events so let’s all come together to make this happen!


We are planning to open entries for the Women’s Qualifier (as well as the other Regional events) very soon so please keep an eye out for more details on our website and Event Newsletter. We hope to see you all there!