RFU to cut Championship clubs funding

lion

It is being reported that the RFU is to cut its funding of the Championship by 50%.

This is obviously not going to help with developing a credible second tier of the professional game, making it inevitable that any relegated team from the Premiership will bounce straight back, and presumably therefore making it the obvious move to scrap relegation.

Is this ring-fencing under a different guise?

The press release reads:

Aggregate funding will amount to approximately £288,000 per club and represents a return to the levels of funding prior to the 2016 – 2020 cycle.

As previously, elements of this funding will be ringfenced and increased for player medical insurance and be conditional on meeting England Qualified Player (EQP) targets.

Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO said “This is a decision based on a principle of ensuring levels of investment are geared to a clear return on investment. There are many worthy requirements from both the professional and community game and we need to make sure that every pound spent is clearly justified. The decision we have made is connected to a wider review of strategic objectives and resource allocation.

“The decision taken in 2015 to increase Championship funding significantly was against a set of objectives and deliverables that we do not believe have been achieved.

“Ultimately the difference in the levels of funding between the current agreement and our new commitment will not be the deciding factor for clubs with aspirations for promotion and will always require additional investment. The gateway is still open for clubs to get into the Premiership if they have the necessary financial resources and meet the minimum standards required.

“The Championship is, and will continue to be, a useful way for players to get additional developmental experience, but we do not believe it is the primary place where Premiership and England players are discovered and developed.”

42 thoughts on “RFU to cut Championship clubs funding

  1. Shame on you RFU you devalue your own product
    English rugby isn’t just the prem its everything from grassroots to the national team and by doing this you are closing pathways which will inhibit development and growth of the game
    Sometime you need to speculate to accumulate

    2
    1. Agree Leon. Lots of untapped talent lying in community clubs and schools that now have a route into the championship looking less attractive. Looks like getting into a good school and being selected by a prem academy is the only way in now! Much more inclusive approach in Wales through regional selection not like England’s failing County system.

      4
      1. Typical of the RFU to ignore something useful, like central contracts for England players but rather kick a source of future players and coaches fairly and squarely in the cojones.

  2. This will just accelerate the divide between the Championship and the Premiership, which is already growing year on year.
    Looks like the RFU have abandoned any idea of trying to bring the Championship standards up. I think there was a good case for trying to improve the league rather than drive it into the ground, but it seems the notion of a really competitive 2nd tier bursting with good quality home grown players and a place for developing good youngsters isn’t shared by those who run the game.
    Ring fencing will surely follow.

    4
    1. I don’t think so Phil. Quins have just signed Wilco Louw. The little clubs will take the hit , as always and the Prem will become ever more unattainable for most of them.

  3. I am absolutely raging about this a decision made by a sub-standard Irish Coach given an office job for some god knows reason who’s been in the job 5 minutes and some toss pot with no Rugby background who’s been in it 6 months.

    I am a Coventry RFC Season Ticket Holder a a proud of what the club have achieved in the last couple of years heralding a 10% increase in attendances since last year despite Wasps camped down the road, John Sharp and his team have done an excellent job and the club is also very active in the community and has/had plans for the future.

    The RFU are a joke and have taken a massive dump on the Championship and grassroots Rugby, could you imagine Football doing this even Rugby League?

    Fat cats getting fatter i’m afraid and what makes things worse is that Coventry, Cornish Pirates, Ealing and London Scottish put together a sensible and comprehensive blue print sent weeks before this dumbest of dumb decisions:

    https://www.coventryrugby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/RFU-Championship-Blueprint-v4-06-02-20.pdf

    Its ring fencing in all but name and I think a drastic rethink is required as I fell this decision will decimate the professional game in England and put a lot of good people out of jobs.

    4
  4. Effective national sports teams usually come from pyramidical systems where the steps on the pyramid from one level to the next are manageable, clearly defined and open to all who are capable of achieving progress. This is a retrograde step which will increase the number of part time players and coaches and lower both fitness and playing standards, thus reducing the pool of players available to the prem and to England. Short sighted and retrograde, showing no understanding of the need for progression. Has Dominic Cummings moved to the RFU?

    3
  5. Ring fencing runs counter to what I believe rugby should embody & I think that this recent RFU decision could be the precursor to just that. I once thought that professionalism was good for the game if managed astutely & fairly for all involved in rugby. Money, certainly initially, helped rugby in the SH particularly with the advent of S Rugby. It raised standards nearer to international level & seemed, for a time at least competitive. Well, in NZ for me anyway. The Union controlled the whole game & could move players from franchise to franchise to even sides’ strengths out, thus increasing skill levels to the national side’s benefit. Additionslly there flourished a more harmonious country wide rugby style. This facilitated asuperior player integration into teams which fostered & enhanced teams’ cohesion. What’s all this got to do with The English Champ’ship though? Well, money. A parrallel is the player drain from the poorer to the richer. From the SH to the NH, thus weakening the former. In turn this may, although initially improving NH play, also have the depleting effect of suppressing aspiring English (& other NH countries’) talent & in turn their clubs. However, the last aforementioned, whilst being potentially important, isn’t directly concerned with the point of this article. What is of importance though, is how adversely the RFU’s revenue based choice to withdraw 2nd tier funding will affect the clubs concerned, their employees, The Premiership & ultimately England. As the set up is club based, primarily focused on The Prem’ship, in England, the RFU seems to have made something of a dog’s dinner of mismanaging revenues. Particularly so in more recent yrs (evidenced by their staff culls etc?). Therefore this may have had much to do with their decision to cut like the Tories. OTOH, The Sweeney has proffered a view that Champ’ship sides haven’t lived up to expected targets in producing England players. Perhaps profits? I don’t know. However, I do believe that, as the emphasis must now shift to PR, it will potentially prosper whereas the Champ’ship may reduced to a division of feeder clubs ripe for cherry picking by the elite outfits. This inevitable seismic shift in wealth & power must not only depress many clubs & communities across the country, but how will it ultimately benefit the top end of the game, including England? As I’ve yet to read Mr B’s info contained in his displayed site, I may be awry with some of my comments. However, I have a sinking feeling that this less than convincing RFU option is tainted with cop out & lacking in gumption & foresight for the game’s greater good. Game & disrepute? It certainly smacks of sell out to me.

    2
    1. I think you;ve hit the nail pretty much on it’s head Don. This is another piece in the conservative/fat cat culture that pervades seemingly the whole of English, not British socio economic thinking at present.
      People can and will say that is paranoia and hyperbole and that’s ok. I may be guilty of both but I don’t think so and perception is half of the whole in matters like this.
      Given that I’m a Rugby fan who also appreciates Wendyball, this , to me, just has EPL MK 2 written all over it.

      1. Well, in the end Acee, unfortunately rugby reflects society. That haves & the have nots. Wealth seekers have a record of disguising their greed with terms like progress, the greater good etc. What is needed is people with foresight & vision for the actual greater good. However, with opportunists like Sweeney & Gisper at WR, the opposite seems to be the case. The seemingly unstoppable march of ring fencing is primarily for the good of the ring fenced. Good bye to history, tradition, values & a better, inclusive way I fear. May as well appoint Tony Blair to ‘right the rugby ship’.

  6. Yesterdays attendances in the Championship.

    Ealing 680
    Coventry 1932
    Ampthill 467
    Doncaster 1048
    Nottingham 865

    Now the weather was awful, but even so these attendances are not that out of kilter with the average. Newcastle play today at home and average a little over 4500, easily the best in the league.
    How is the Championship supposed to function as a professional league with this level of support? Even Ealing, who do have serious money behind them, cannot realistically support Premiership rugby.
    I’m all for a thriving 2nd tier, but just what is it’s purpose and how should it be funded?

    1. Centrally. So why aren’t the RFU out hunting wealthy benefactors? Isn’t this how PR already exist along with RFU funding? In order to preserve the game’s future, surely its wealth needs to be more evenly spread. Of course the clubs also need get their fingers in their dials too, but shouldn’t there be a concerted & co-ordinated sales effort to this end? I doubt that a major restructuring of the game will happen now wherby the RFU merges with clubs to control the whole game nationally, or where some reverse takeover occurs, but the alternative to no effort at all leaves only ring fencing. Surely this will dilute player strength, as only so many cherries can be picked to be squeezed into the salary capped premiership. Won’t this then so weaken lower rugby’s tier/s to the extent that it will also in turn negatively impact PR & England? Is this not especially so in the latter’s case with the increasing numbers of non English born players infiltrating the game, thereby further suppressing it & in particular, local talent? I don’t really know the answers, but it seems to me that the easier course for the RFU is to toss it in, aided & abetted by its main benficiery & collaborator, PR & cut like surgeons. Maybe Sweeney could do more to earn his salary & lofty posi.

      1
    2. So what are you saying Steve? Are you English? If so you should be hugely concerned about this state of affairs. Look at Premier Lge Soccer. How many England qualified players are there in the EPL? It’s roughly 45%. Just under half of the players in our top tier soccer lge are qualified to play for the country in which that lge is set. That is ridiculous. Going forwards, what makes you think that English Rugby won’t go the same way?

      1. I’m English and hugely concerned about the game in this country. I worry about its governance, its direction and how it is organised and funded.
        I want to see more English players across out top leagues, i want to see more development of our young talent and i want to see the game prosper.
        My question is really aimed at trying to find out how that can be achieved. If you think all is fine as it is, then so be it. I dont. The Championship has become a one horse race for a number of seasons now. There is a clear divide between the ambitious clubs on one hand, and the others who are just clinging on. Even the ambitious ones are nowhere near being able to sustain Premiership rugby.
        So just what should we be looking for from the Championship. Just how does it fit in to the overall vision of the game in England? Can the game support 2 pro leagues of 12 teams for instance? What level of funding should the RFU provide to those teams in the 2 top leagues and just what should they expect in return for their support?

      2. You are right in principle Acee, but the figures now appear to be even worse. I read this weekend it is now 34 percent England qualified in the Football Premiership, and that falls to 27 per cent for the wealthiest six clubs. Rugby is already going the same way, and every foreigner takes an opportunity away from a potential England player, but I don´t see how one turns back the tide.

        1. Penny begun to drop Andy? Didn’t you state that you saw nothing wrong with players plying their trade to support their families in a short career? Pigeons now coming home to roost? Of course ‘foreign’ players like MV, Hartley, Billy, Heinz, Harrison, Shields, Tui, Teo, Solamona, Roco etc to name a few, were/are going to suppress local talent. Even yr coach is doing likewise. When you get cod sages like
          Alex D then banging on about playing Woodward so Furbank can also be supressed, doesn’t it make you wonder about a lack of foresight in the NH game by a few up here? This is nothing new though. From memory the 1st ‘foreigner’ was a guy called Hudson form Sthn Africa in 1892. Of course there have been scores of other Saffas playing here for yrs, although a couple of these were apparantly hovered up by Saracens, as well as plenty others from around the globe. This stuff by Alex D of NZ’s ‘rape of the Pacific’ variety simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny in reality. It’s up here, In the NH, that drain from the SH increasingly exists. It’s also a concern for the French Top 14, although their national team v England only contained 2 Saffas & a Fijian as far as I know. The answer Andy, is a player cap per club, county/prov, national team. Max 3? May run into restraint of trade issues, but these may have to be challenged.. for the game’s greater good?

    3. Steve check Coventry’s attendances this season and don’t cherry pick this weekend alone our gates are 10-% up on next season, don’t write all The Championship clubs off.

      Jon Sharp is trying to use Coventry with a workable and sustainable business plan, yes he has money behind him bit he’s doing it sensibly.

  7. Saw Sweeney in a TV interview earlier. Made need some revision, but from what I understood, he proffered that clubs, incl Championship clubs, must be financially independent to the tune of £15m a yr to harbour Premiership ambitions. Apparsntly this is the average cost of running a Premiership club, incl staff salaries, player salaries, marquee player costs, etc. On average PR clubs run at a £3m a yr loss, Championship clubs at £300,000. Therefore, if the latter have PR aspirations, the £200,000 RFU funding isn’t that significant. They’ll need to find any funding shortfall themselves. Richards of Newcastle opined that the (Champ’ship Rugby) product needs to be a viable one. The Cornish Pirates coach(?) seemed to reckon similarly, but that different clubs will be affected differently but the RFU finding cuts. However, he didn’t see that the cuts would unduly affect C Pirates. Martin Hudson, a CP’s director, said Sweeney had Ch clubs informed by email, without discussion, of funding withdrawal. Hudson further advised Sweeney to look at the WC promo video, incl Jack Nowell in 2nd tier kit, which apparently extolled Cham’ship virtues. Hudson additionally said that 12 of England’s squad came via the Cham’ship, so he didn’t know what criteria Sweeney referred to in the 2nd tier’s not meeting them. IOW, he was unaware of any. I also gleaned in the pre Newc v Pirates match discourse that 17 of 23 an England evolved from the Champ’ship.. I think, although this doesn’t tally with MH’s prev stats? Sweeney aslo stated that he had a background in sport, as well as commerce. He opined that the two were different in their sporting reactions to such events. His cuts, which he deemed logical, although he is supposedly aware of their affects on rugby communities, drew an emotional response rather than a rational one. Bit of a red rag, that? So, in light if all this, with differing views from within & without of the Champ’ship, what’s to be made of Sweeney’s scissors? Well, it shows up divisions & lack of collective purpose within rugby. It shows a lack of communication & understanding of rugby’s differing requirements. Therefore, is there a solution? Seems a bit difficult to state the least. However, before this question can be sufficiently answered, if that’s possible, rugby needs to have, or set out, an overall blueprint as to what sort of game it wants, or needs & whom runs it. Without an overall concensus on this, especially with self interest involved, this is a formidable challenge, with no simple answers in sight. However, whatever the realities (incl financial) are, in the interests of natural justice & fair play (as Saracens once similarly espoused), surely some accommodation must be made for the whole of the game & not just the haves. This seems to me especially so with the sinister spectre of ring fencing still hanging about on the horizon, despite Sweeney’s reassurances to the contrary.

    1. PS I need a proof reader! Re-read through the above piece, yet after posting, there are still now obvious typos, misspellings! Grrrgh! Anyone else find this.. or want a job?

              1. Don´t think I have ever argued that it is desirable Don. I just think this particular horse bolted some time ago and will not be got back into the stable. The self-interest of the club sides will, I think, outweigh the provision of a steady stream of England born players to the England side. Professionalism leads to pragmatism, then to cynicism.

                1. You stated that you saw nothing wrong with it either Andy. IOW, you appeared to condone it. If you didn’t, then you certainly did’t condemn it either. My point is that when things appear to be in the national interest & seem to be going swimmingly enough, then it’s all hunky dory. When it goes awry, then it’s not so h d. Well, is it going awry? Is it suppressing local talent & which seems to be exacerbated by the RFU’s cutting of The Championship’s drip feed? Can’t have it both ways it seems. Trouble is & has been since the game went pro, England’s RFU stuck it’s finger in the dyke instead of embracing the new reality, thus driving a permanent wedge into the game between themselves & the clubs, not to mention a loss of the game’s control. The latter have the real power, whilst the RFU has been reduced to the role of a part time pseudo banker & administrator for the sport. IOW, they’re at logger heads with PR by hiring the latter’s assets (players/employees), to potentially crock them in a non club interested cause, namely international rugby games. Clubs, as businesses, for that’s what they also are, will naturally trend towards buying non thus exposed foreign imports to achieve league success. So long as England are wining, whom cares? Papered cracks are drowned out by the volume of the massed hordes. All’s well until the shizen hits the fan when England start losing. The WC final perhaps, being a prophetic harbinger of doom’s wake up call? We’ll see, but I do believe that this fluidly of player movement is a dilation, or erosion, of international & the game’s integrity. To intimate that it’s too late to turn back the clock is surely akin to admitting defeat. Bowing to the inevitable. Well, it might be. It certainly will be, unless the WW game wakes up & makes a concerted, collective effort to stop to this canker that’s slowly strangling the game. However, I don’t see this situation as an inevitable march of money to ultimate self destruction. Nevertheless, it will take er, will, wit, foresight & no little determination to put an international player cap on this slide on the road to God knows where. So there!

  8. A couple of questions from a position of ignorance.
    1. Is there a salary cap in the Championship?
    2. If so, are Saracens expected to conform to it next season?
    3.If they are expected to conform, how are they going to avoid having to lay off a large number of players and the commensurate breach of contract actions that are likely to follow, particularly if they do not get the customary parachute payment??
    4. To take conspiracy theory further, if this, as some people seem to think, is ring fencing by the back door, given the speed with which it has been brought forward is there any chance that Saracens could be prevented from returning to the Premiership the season after next even if they win the Championship?

    1. 1. Not directly see point 2
      2. They need to conform to the prem cap while in the championship in order to gain promotion
      3. Some players will be end of contract, some will be loaned out thus their wages would be part funded by other clubs, some will chose to find prem club so terminate their contract by mutual consent.
      4. No. Sarries don’t need the RFU’s money as they have Nigel’s. The cuts will hamstring the clubs that don’t have wealthy benefactors making it easier for Sarries to bounce back not harder

    2. Re 4 – I don’t think this is Saracens related. All prior discussion around ringfencing suggested 1 or 2 extra teams would be brought up from the Championship so that a total of 13/14 teams made up the newly ring-fenced premiership.
      I think it would be spiteful not to include Saracen’s in the competition, considering they have already been heavily penalised and sanctioned.
      Further question – would there be a salary-cap in a ring-fenced prem. competition? IMO, the cap isn’t achieving the aim of ensuring financial viability and the development of homegrown talent. All prem teams operate at a loss, barring Exeter who just about make a profit due to the business function facilities on-site at Sandy Park (not really rugby related). Teams with good academies aren’t reaping the rewards – minimal financial reimbursement for missed internationals and then difficulty retaining top talent once market value goes up – and those who don’t focus on their academies (Sale, Harlequins, Wasps) seem content to stack their squad with imports. Sale supposedly had 5 England qualified players in their squad last week.

  9. Leon,the implication of 4 was that ring fencing could possibly be introduced post-haste, in which case they could maybe be prevented from going up because there is no promotion. I can think of a few people who would not object to that at all.

Leave a Reply