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Ringfencing by any other name

By Carnegiette2
February 14 2020

The rugby world (well my part of it) has been rocked by news that the RFU are slashing funding for Championship clubs by 50% for the 2020/2021 season with no guarantees of funding after that.

The league has been underfunded for years – in a vicious circle it has failed to attract sponsorship, and failed (with a few exceptions) to draw good crowds. Yet week in week out it provides exciting entertaining rugby. There are countless players now at the top table who once plied their trade in the Championship – it is a proven pathway.

The RFU aspiration for the Championship was for it to be fully professional yet they failed to provide the funding or support to achieve that. It was branded the “Wild West” in a Guardian article back in 2016 with rumours of clubs cutting corners on medicals and insurance with players on contracts not worth the paper they were written on (then as we were a PRL member our players were on PRL contracts but that didn’t last).

The PRL clubs have long wanted to ringfence themselves. Currently one unlucky member gets to spend a year mixing with the Championship clubs, but with a large parachute payment to ease their pain meaning an almost guaranteed return to the promised land. The playing field is less level than Goldington Road but Premiership clubs are happy to raid the Championship for the most promising talent.

In many ways the Premiership is already ringfenced – the injection of the CVC cash leading to a widening gulf between the haves and the have-nots. London Welsh had to embark on a legal battle to take the place they had earned but paid the price financially. Ealing have a wealthy backer and are keen to make the leap, Cornish Pirates have aspirations and plans to build a compliant stadium. We have the stadium but when our main backer pulled the plug financial catastrophe followed. The sums of money now needed to compete with Premiership clubs are eye watering.

Allegedly last year Championship clubs were offered a 3 year deal with a modest increase in funding – if they agreed to ringfencing of the Premiership. They didn’t. But now those clubs are caught between the wealthy PRL clubs flexing their muscle, with a track record for making it up as they go along and a weak, skint RFU who are lacking both in competence and (seemingly) morals.

What next?
There are no easy answers. Legal battles? (possibly) A breakaway league? (unlikely) Clubs joining the Pro 14? (rumoured). Pirates and Coventry had been working on a blueprint for the Championship and it’s a good read. Who pays for it is the eternal problem. My view is there will be a lot of noise -some clubs will absorb the loss of funding (the likes of Ealing) but others will struggle. More clubs will be forced down the semi-pro route - that and increased uncertainty are not good for player welfare.

One thing is certain- this battle has a long long way to go.

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Ringfencing by any other name
Discussion started by (IP Logged), 14/02/2020 11:57
14/02/2020 11:57
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2020:03:05:17:19:55 by almostatyke.

leeds exile
leeds exile
14/02/2020 14:13
The idea of Championship clubs being accepted into the pro14 seems highly unlikely to me. It is a far higher standard and the travel costs to Italy and South Africa would be exorbitant.

14/02/2020 15:04
I am not clear on the logic that somehow the Championship clubs need to give consent for the Premiership to be ring-fenced.
Surely the Premiership could just do that unilaterally? Or at least, as they receive substantial funding from the rfu, with the rfu's agreement?

Nice article C2 smiling smiley

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2020:02:14:15:05:48 by almostatyke.

Irish Londoner
Irish Londoner
14/02/2020 15:36
The Championship clubs don't have to give consent as such but if they refused to play the relegated team what would happen?

14/02/2020 15:45
Great Article!

What happens next - who knows, it seems to be that things happen at the last possible minute - the one thing I struggle to believe on this is the clubs have been told in February that their funding is halved next year....player recruitment can officially start on the 1st Jan...

In my cynical view (and one I've often expressed) is this is not a new way to ring fence, ring fencing has existed for a number of years.

The one thing not mentioned by people, is how many championship clubs will become more of reserve side for the premiership clubs...

Leicester / Nottingham
Saints / Bedford
Quins / Richmond (should they come up)
Wasps / Coventry
Exeter / Pirates

etc etc

Obviously a bit of a hole in the north....we will be in the same league as the original Sale next year so it may be do Newcastle want to drop their players 2 leagues down.

I actually think the breakaway idea is interesting, in a summer article I floated the idea about the championship negotiating their own TV rights, even to a free to air channel - would this increase commercial appeal? Who knows.

Maybe this is the compromise, half the funding from the RFU and more autonomy in decision making? Not sure where this leaves us though

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2020:02:14:15:47:42 by WPL.

14/02/2020 15:46
Irish Londoner
The Championship clubs don't have to give consent as such but if they refused to play the relegated team what would happen?

I doubt this will happen, money is tight all round, playing saracens and their smattering of players (Jamie George for example is staying) will be a lot of clubs biggest gate and therefore money spinner of the season.

14/02/2020 15:52
Irish Londoner
The Championship clubs don't have to give consent as such but if they refused to play the relegated team what would happen?

I’m not sure of the links between PRL and the RFU and the legal implications. It is an unholy mess.

Leeds Exile- Ealing Is the rumour I’ve heard for the Pro14 - and they have the cash. But it is only a rumour ....... and they have now added their name to the Pirates/Cov blueprint for the Championship so who knows?

14/02/2020 18:35
Here is the document Pirates, Coventry, Scottish and Ealing have produced:


If you are short of time the Executive Summary is:

We are proposing:
A thorough review of the format of the Championship league, taking into account the views of all clubs, along with
those National League One clubs with ambitions for promotion and making the league members as competitive as
Exploration of new competitions in which the Championship clubs would participate, eg a new Premiership and
Championship Cup; a new Championship and National League One Cup; British and Irish league; or third tier
European tournament.
Clear and transparent governance of the competition, including the appointment of an independent chair and paid
executive(s) to maximise the Championship’s commercial potential and therefore investment into the clubs
The proactive use of the best practices shown by large American and Australian sports (ie NFL, MLB, NRL, etc) and
being adopted by CVC with the Premiership for an integrated and collaborative approach across key commercial
and playing areas.
The introduction of new educational pathways to give opportunities for players cut by Premiership Academies
to both remain within a professional rugby environment while also preparing themselves for life with a post-18
Robust community programmes and the sharing of best practice across the league.
The introduction of comprehensive minimum standards across all areas of a club’s operations, with the incentive of
greater incomes and investment for clubs which achieve those standards. A transition period would be in place for
clubs to achieve those minimum standards within a set time period.
More efficient use of current central funding and re-allocating other funding streams within the sport to the

Thanks to the Pirates Mesageboard for this.

TBH I have seen this sort of presentation so many times when, in the dim and distant past, I worked (whatever that was?).
To me, in these circumstances, money is everything. Unless someone can actually come up with a sponsor or a TV deal then words are nothing. The rfu have no cash, they will just cover their tracks.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2020:02:14:20:21:36 by almostatyke.

14/02/2020 20:43
On a more positive note, I have posted before about the relatively high standard of French Pro D2 rugby compared, unfortunately, with our Championship. So is there something to learn here? The big thing is that the Pro D2 do not compete with the Top14 elite French rugby division. They have one match on Thursday night, most on Friday night and one match on Sunday.
The result is that Canal Plus (French equivalent of Sky/BT) show the Thursday and Friday matches live. Also the stigma of dropping out of the top tier is not so great. Stephan Armitage, as captain of Biaritz, formerly seen as an England number 7, is playing as I write (OK it is half time).
So should we have a mid-week Championship? There is no live rugby about at present and perhaps this would fill a gap in a TV schedule?
Worth a go?

15/02/2020 15:53
perhaps a better idea would be to remove all the money from the RFU and use it to develop the professional game?

15/02/2020 18:55
I find it a little bit ironic, in that during the week when Manchester City are handed-out a big punishment for not balancing their books, the Chairman of the rfu has come out and said that Championship clubs can get to the Premiership if they have a rich enough Sugar Daddy.

The rfu priority is cutting their losses and they realise that they cannot finance the Championship to anywhere near the level needed to be a close competitor to the Premiership, so why finance it at all?

I suspect they will just cover insurance and travel costs in future.

15/02/2020 20:58
As long as the sugar daddy doesn’t go into “property investment” deals with the players all will be well....

20/02/2020 08:56
Slight softening of the rfu's stance:


20/02/2020 09:04
"We haven't just cut this to save £3m. We've cut it because we are not clear of the benefit we're getting from that spending."


20/02/2020 10:42
He's back tracked slightly through his mess and made more mess..

20/02/2020 19:18
When you are up to your neck in $h!t, don't jump up and down!

20/02/2020 20:33
He is sort of standing by his principal reason, but acknowleding that the time period is unfair.

20/02/2020 21:16
I just dont get the value for money argument when they do @#$%& all to promote our league. How do they calculated value for money from the prem when most teams run at a massive loss every year and are bailed out but a handful of wealthy owners?

20/02/2020 21:42
I don’t get the argument they use that the relegated Premiership club always goes back up so the gap is widening.

Well yes they do- they get a large parachute payment amongst the other advantages so yes they are always likely to go back up......... it’s not and never has been a level playing field

20/02/2020 21:51
Surely it is the weird world of professional rugby where only the international games make a profit? Everything below is a Sugar Daddy affair.
So getting competitive England players is everything.
It just comes down to whether the rfu value the Championship or not.
I do and can see how it promotes players to higher levels plus adds a pathway to coaches and referees.

Our businessman, new to rugby, rfu Chairman sees a different world.

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