The Thames Valley Invitation League was set up in 1999 to provide competitive rugby union football to non-first team players from local clubs in order to give them a more interesting season and to give more recognition to those players who were and are still at the true grass roots of the game. TVIL was one of the first such leagues and may be unique in not being confined to one particular county or group of counties.
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While it is affiliated to Berkshire RU in order to make it constitutionally part of the RFU, the County is content to allow TVIL to run its own affairs, subject to the production of an annual report. Membership is open to any rugby club that wishes to enter a team or teams in any of the league’s divisions provided that its application is accepted by the majority of the member clubs, a reasonable travelling distance to matches being the principal consideration. In season 2008/2009 the league consists of three divisions totalling 27 teams from 23 clubs spread across six counties. All other major decisions of the League are made democratically at general meetings of the member clubs, which are extremely well attended and over the years the rules have been amended to try to solve problems including those arising from the scrummage.
TVIL is financed principally by the subscriptions of the member clubs and an annual grant from the RFU. At the AGM the member clubs agree the constitution of the divisions, the main criterion being to arrange competitive matches with minimal travelling. Each team in the division plays all of the others home and away, the dates of fixtures being arranged by the clubs themselves in order to provide maximum flexibility and fit in with divisional and county league fixtures. Three points are awarded for a win, two for a draw and one for playing in a losing game. There is no registration but clubs are expected to field only players of a standard compatible with the particular division and from time to time, the Committee, which is elected annually and is drawn from the member clubs, receives complaints about this and other matters affecting the outcome of matches. These may be dealt with by awarding the match to the non-offender or simply by having a quiet word. Unfulfilled fixtures are a major concern of the Committee so that various efforts have been made over the years to tackle this problem including changing the rules to allow players to be lent from club to club and, currently, skippers being encouraged to talk to each other in the days before a match to help ensure that it takes place.