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Championship statement: 'Urgent' request made to RFU

By Josh Raisey
A fan of Coventry waves a flagduring the Premiership Rugby Cup game between Gloucester Rugby and Coventry at Kingsholm Stadium on October 07, 2023 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

All eleven clubs in the Championship in England have made a request to the RFU to set an “urgent date”, after plans were announced last month to create a ‘Premiership 2’.

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In a joint statement today, the clubs said that they have offered “alternative proposals” to the league, but have received no response. Therefore, they have called for the RFU to set a date in order to hear the proposals.

This comes after the Championship clubs were told by the RFU that they would be relegated to the National Leagues if they do not sign up to the ‘Premiership 2’ or ‘Tier 2’.

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The statement reads: “We emphasised in our last statement our principled objections to a franchise or selection-based Tier 2. Rather than seek to discuss these objections and others, the RFU has chosen to threaten us with effective relegation to the National Leagues for non-compliance, while ignoring the unresolved questions on governance, commercial strategy, promotion/relegation, player welfare and the player development pathway. We have offered alternative proposals on the way forward to the Board without response.

“The current RFU plan to present any recommendation to Council is extremely premature, until such fundamental issues are addressed and consensus reached so that the game can move forward via agreement rather than ultimatum. We would appeal to Council not to approve any plans for Tier 2 until our proposals are discussed in detail and there is full clarity on these fundamental issues.

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“We have discussed this matter with Sport England because without further clarity on funding and governance, it will be impossible to ensure that Championship clubs are able to repay their Covid loans. We believe they share our concerns.

“We believe that no club can place value on a process involving expressions of interest when there is so little necessary detail.

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“However, we can only act for ourselves: consequently the 11 current Championship clubs request that the Board sets an urgent date to hear in full our amended proposals – proposals which share all of the RFU’s objectives, albeit reached via different routes which we consider achievable, pragmatic and full of vision for the future growth of the game.

This has already been a tumultuous season for England’s second division with champions Jersey Reds entering liquidation before the season even started.

In an attempt to revive rugby as a whole in England, RFU chief Bill Sweeney and performance director Conor O’Shea proposed the franchise-based ‘Premiership 2’ last month, with Sweeney saying the current format “doesn’t deliver”.

“What are you investing in? You’d rather take that money and invest it in other things,” Sweeney said.

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“I know it’s a controversial topic, but where are you going to get that return on investment?

“We’ve shown that if you pour money into the existing structure of the Championship, it just doesn’t deliver. That’s not being disrespectful, it just doesn’t.”

On top of the statement, chairman of the Championship clubs, Simon Halliday, said: “As we currently sit here, if we do not jump on board with this we will be relegated to the community game.

“It shouldn’t be brinkmanship because we think we have alternative proposals that take us to the same place but in a different way – one that we all buy into.

“You cannot say there’s a plan that’s going to work when the entirety of a league is opposed to it.”

Additional reporting by the PA. 

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