By Dragons' Den
May 31 2012
The Championship title was won on the pitch after final against Cornish Pirates but London Welsh have been told that they have not met the criteria for promotion. They players may have done their job but you can’t help feeling that the season is far from over. The media have taken notice of events and supporters from across the game have joined in voicing their dissatisfaction with the RFU.
Only hours before London Welsh were to take the field against Cornish Pirates at the Mennaye the RFU announced that the Welsh hadn’t met the Minimum Standards Criteria for promotion. The response from London Welsh supporters was to be expected, the outrage from supporters of other teams was something of a surprise.
It was a textbook spear tackle from the RFU on Wednesday 23rd May. They lined up London Welsh and, at a time when the players should have been focussing on the impending game, dropped them straight down on their heads. Calls for it to be ‘a red’ started almost immediately but it quickly became apparent that the only review would be through the appeals process with the RFU supplying both ‘judge’ and ‘defendant’.
It was credit to Sky that despite being a major funder of the RFU via the purchase of TV rights they didn’t shy away from the issue with both Pat Sanderson and Rob Baxter very vocal about the need to maintain promotion and relegation between the Championship and the Premiership. This was soon followed by articles in all the major newspapers with notable writers such as Brendan Gallagher, Gavin Mairs and Brian Moore all having their say and similar comments were repeated all week across the media. Further attention was received when Gareth Thomas MP tabled and Early Day Motion in the House of Commons.
Our own forum has seen comment from supporters up and down the country. As mentioned in the preview of the final, this is not a love-in with London Welsh but the grabbing of an opportunity to express dissatisfaction in the way our sport is run. This was clearly demonstrated than through the supporters of both finalists (plus many of the neutrals) booing the RFU presentation party at the end of the match.
This doesn’t just affect London Welsh. Our fellow finalists do not have a stadium within their county that meets the criteria and even if that was built they may still fall foul of the rule requiring a back-up stadium within 30 miles of your nominated home ground.
Even if London Welsh do not win their appeal it is important that Championship clubs and their supporters maintain the pressure on the RFU to ensure that the Premiership doesn’t become ring-fenced via the imposition of unnecessary standards. Could this even be the beginning of a shift of power from the blazers in Twickenham's committee rooms and the twe;ve Premiership clubs down to the lower levels of the game? Finally, lets not forget that the Championship clubs themselves have a responsibility to ensure and to prove that they are 100% ready for Premiership status. If just one Championship winner fell a long way short then the current levels of sympathy would quickly vanish and the Premiership Chairmen would very soon be using this as a reason to close the door permanently.