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Francis Baron, Steve Brown and RFU politics
BarnetSarrie (IP Logged)
18 November, 2018 13:18
What does everyone think? We should all probably care ....

For what its worth, my reading of this is that Steve Brown basically had a belly full of the interminable politicking and power plays that go with that job and has said he has had enough. There is a meeting this week I believe which would have been pretty unpleasant. The Telegraph reports that he has the backing of the RFU itself and that this was his personal decision. The particular criticisms of RFU finances involve as key, the overspend of the new Twickenham stand, the £220m eight year Premiership club deal and the Union redundancies as well as the likely need for future borrowings. There is also the cessation of the artificial pitch programme for grass roots clubs and the 'diversion' of funds from grass roots rugby. The misspend of £26m from the World cup is also a specific criticism.

In terms of general finance, it seems the Board actually has a plan and are getting things under control, though it will take a little time, that the stand overspend is due to safety and fire regs being imposed after Grenfell, which have involved redesign and additional consequent spend and which frankly were therefore unavoidable, that the RFU has always been top heavy and needed a bit of a shake up, unpleasant as it certainly is for the individuals at the end of the proverbial boot. As far as the club agreement is concerned - it is a big number when the press repeatedly quote the total without going into what it actually means, but in reality each of the prem clubs gets £1.53 million from the Union each year. That looks too little to me, bearing in mind there is no England and no revenue without the clubs' player production line!

I cant help but question the motivation of Francis Baron, who strikes me as someone who would simply like to turn the clock back to the amateur era, resents the restructuring of the Union which and limits his involvement. I am no fan of the RFU - and I dislike the attitude which demotes fans - with emotional committment to mere 'customers', but I think he and his successors take on a poisoned chalice, sipped very much in the public domain. The problem is that I cannot see this changing whilst individuals such as Mr Baron constantly do their best to undermine those trying to balance the very broad needs of rugby in this country, and the books!

Re: Francis Baron, Steve Brown and RFU politics
John Tee (IP Logged)
18 November, 2018 14:20
Interesting Barnetsarrie...
I think the Rfu has too much power over players for the money it pays. I get that other federations have more control but if the Rfu paid central contracts it might cost them 20m which they may be able to offset a little by renting back to clubs...
But the Rfu seems to be operating an alternative platform for fans rather than complementing the game in England.
England Rugby team don't seem to care much about the system that supplies their wherewithal.

Re: Francis Baron, Steve Brown and RFU politics
SarrieSaint (IP Logged)
18 November, 2018 17:07
From someone more sceptical I'd point out that an overspend on the West stand of £30M+ isn't just down to safety and fire regs even if it all had to be retrofitted.

Nor is the £1M overspend for Jones England (pay-offs?) something that should have been acceptable. I don't subscribe to there not being a defined budget for any area under the RFUs remit.

I'm inclined to be deeply suspicious of a guy who was the CFO jumping ship when there start to be legitimate concerns about spending under his watch and approval.

Finally Baron certainly has his own agenda. That doesn't automatically mean he's wrong or there isn't something to see here.

Re: Francis Baron, Steve Brown and RFU politics
BarnetSarrie (IP Logged)
18 November, 2018 17:43
SarrieSaint - I do think he is wrong in harping on about the fault being in the deal agreed with the Prem clubs!

As for the retrofit and redesign and anti terror structures - the overspend figure is £26m - the cost of our new stand. I can well believe if elements have to be undone and undesigned or amended, before being re-done that you could easily get to that sort of figure. I dont think that sort of change is just a question of bolting things on or tweaking. It is about fundamental structure design and build - and perhaps demolishing parts of the new structure that are already in place? There is a cost in that after all!

As for central contracts - they arent part of the criticism, as there is no way that they are ever going to be affordable or implementable now. That ship sailed when the professional era began and the RFU made that choice. And in any case the clubs would never agree with it. Maybe you are right and we should be much more sceptical about Brown's departure - but I do agree that the motivations of pretty much everyone in this scenario are worth scrutinising closely, to say the least!

Re: Francis Baron, Steve Brown and RFU politics
SarrieSaint (IP Logged)
18 November, 2018 20:08
I'd love to see the changes to code that Grenfell precipitated. Aside from combustibility/fire-rating of products used I wonder what other implications there were?
As for security why would that suddenly change too? Something sounds off.

Re: Francis Baron, Steve Brown and RFU politics
Innings (IP Logged)
18 November, 2018 21:36
What project like this ever ran on time and on budget? The more it runs on time, the more it runs over budget. The Said Business School of Oxford University calculates that the median over-spend on Olympic Games is 156% of the original estimated cost. They also say that businesses budget for major ITs projects that then have a median excess of cost over budget of 107%. The best-run projects are roads, which on median only overrun by 20%.

On these numbers, a mere 50%, more or less overrun is a model of prudent management.


Points win matches: tries win hearts and minds.

Re: Francis Baron, Steve Brown and RFU politics
Rupes (IP Logged)
28 November, 2018 17:59
Now that the dust has settled (a bit) on this, time to revisit I think.

I have no doubt that rugby in England is still suffering from making the transition to being a professional sport. Be that the make-up of those who make decisions (amateur counties?) or the financial management, the whole set-up is in my view need of a serious shake-up and professional management.

I get it - if you have organised a county RFU for decades, then of course you will be resistant to change. And if you are given a voice, then the chances are that you will want to maintain the status quo. But normally that's not the world of professional sport. Professional sport is a cut throat, highly commercial business, with little room for sentiment. That doesn't match that well with the current RFU and amateur game structure, even though I appreciate that there is a Pro Game Board. My understanding is that it's a grey area of how much that Board can actually affect RFU business.

And so the CEO has decided too many politics, probably he's not been given enough rope to run the RFU as a commercial business, hence he has walked. Now I'm sure there are two sides to the story but, as Innings rightly says, the East Stand should not be held up as an example of financial mismanagement. Flip that back to Francis Baron and the RFU - how much did the World Cup (only 3 long years ago) generate? Where has that all gone? I simply don't believe as I've said on other posts that the RFU is fit for commercial purpose, hence the CEO has walked as he is working with one hand behind his back.

Interestingly, the CVC bid has said that they thought the Prem significantly under-valued its media rights. Perhaps it's an English thing therefore, not just RFU.

The one thing I don't get though is how football makes it work very well (the FA, plus the Prem League, plus grassroots) but rugby cannot manage that! Greg Dyke exposed the runnings of the FA (blazers anyone?!), action was taken and it's now a much better organisation than it was. It's a thankless task being a governing body as you have to be everything to everyone, but I really think that the RFU needs a serious, commercial, overhaul.

As for agendas, more than your average conference...

Re: Francis Baron, Steve Brown and RFU politics
JO'G (IP Logged)
30 November, 2018 14:10
there was a train of thought that the best thing for English rugby is that the RFU took over the clubs so they could manage player welfare

I'm thinking that perhaps its the other way round - as long as an amount each year was ring-fenced for the counties and thus below the amateur game

Re: Francis Baron, Steve Brown and RFU politics
BarnetSarrie (IP Logged)
04 December, 2018 17:21
Agree with all the points you make Rupes. There is definitely an element of a massive clashing of egos here as well, methinks. It does seem to be old versus new and noses being put out of joint, as you say. Am I the only one who doesnt think that the Professional Game agreement wasn't excessive? The previous eight year funding was clearly far too little - it is after all compensation for player release and it is the clubs who have invested and brought on those players! £220m isnt the real figure either - it is £212 million guaranteed over 8 years, that works out at £17.6m per club - which is 2.2m a year. That doesnt sound an unreasonable figure to me! The remaining 8 million is dependent on the RFU sorting its financial affairs out.

Re: Francis Baron, Steve Brown and RFU politics
LutonS (IP Logged)
05 December, 2018 07:37
With the money that the RFU charge for England tickets etc. they shouldn't need their finances sorting out.

Re: Francis Baron, Steve Brown and RFU politics
JO'G (IP Logged)
05 December, 2018 11:53
so the contribution to the clubs is roughly 75% of the income from the Autumn internationals - leaving the RFU to scoop up all the 6 nations money

this is more than they got before professionalism - and was enough then to pay for the grass roots and re-build twickenham

Re: Francis Baron, Steve Brown and RFU politics
Rupes (IP Logged)
05 December, 2018 13:06
One final point - we (obviously) don't know all the facts about how the money is distributed and how much is collected in the first place. But we do know that RWC brought in a truckload, as do 6N games, as do Autumn Internationals, that's before any media rights contracts or hospitality / ticket sales.

So somewhere there's a heck of a lot of money going in and out of the RFU. I genuinely fail to see why, therefore, they have made redundancies in 2018 with more to follow and are pleading financial issues. 2+2 doesn't quite equal 4 for me in this case.

Re the club guarantee BS, I think £2.2m is fair. But the reason that we are even debating this figure is that the sport in England hasn't got to grips with how to run itself in a professional setting, as opposed to amateur. Hence we go full circle.

Re: Francis Baron, Steve Brown and RFU politics
TonyTaff (IP Logged)
05 December, 2018 13:30
so the contribution to the clubs is roughly 75% of the income from the Autumn internationals - leaving the RFU to scoop up all the 6 nations money
this is more than they got before professionalism - and was enough then to pay for the grass roots and re-build twickenham

Do you mean 'profit' rather than 'income'? I understand that ABs demand a small fortune to play England (and Wales).

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