Most every American club would envy San Francisco Golden Gate's facilities, but many fail to acknowledge how these were put in place and why SFGG's success exemplifies the varsity model working at the 'senior' level.
A varsity approach above all requires integrating with the mainstream sports community. While high schools and colleges are drawing closer to athletic departments, nearly all clubs are failing to assimilate into municipal sports administrations. They continue to settle for being fringe renters of fields -- generally shut out at the first sign of rain -- and ultimately perceived as a kind of cult.
Almost from the start, SFGG has assiduously worked with local authorities. Though born an amalgam of two Division 2 sides and having suffered through rugby's losing its historic access to the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park, the club has been part of a Friday night series at Keezar Park (former home of the San Francisco 49ers) and tenants at Balboa Park, where it helped stage the old Pacific Rim series and sundry other internationals. Both revenue-minded initiatives entailed significant work with city officials.
Founding father Greg Rocca is a longtime member of San Francisco Park and Recreation, and it has not been unusual to see politicians at rugby events.
More recently SFGG gained access to Treasure Island, an old military facility that effectively came up for grabs. Then its crew of born-and-raised locals and transplanted Cantabrians rallied their stakeholders (some youth team parents, old boys in the trades, and so on) to build a field, locker rooms, and even a bar. The result: self-sufficiency in a region characterized by some of the country's most expensive land prices.
More fields are underway, as are talks with other local athletic groups. If fruitful, this would put SFGG on a path toward the fabled Olympic Club, not coincidentally the city's other rugby power.
To become a real dynamo, SFGG may have to address San Francisco's shortage of strong high college and collegiate teams. While the club supports a youth and a U23 side and SFGG men are at work elsewhere, Northern California's scholastic epicenter is the Sacramento area and schools like the University of San Francisco are a far cry from Division 1, let alone Cal.
Still, SFGG has the varsity club model down pat -- and they do not have a patent.