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Championship blueprint ignored by RFU

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Revealed: The Championship blueprint ignored by the budget-slashing RFU

Championship clubs are up in arms that a blueprint document outlining what was needed to happen for a viable and dynamic second-tier league has been ignored by the RFU. 

Cornish Pirates and Coventry had started to formulate ideas in late 2019 and a first draft was sent to the RFU’s management group on December 7. 

The hope was that with other clubs such as Ealing Trailfinders since endorsing the blueprint, the lobby group would have had the opportunity to formally present its ideas to the RFU. 

However, that is now not going to happen as the RFU have decided to cut Championship funding in half to approximately £288,000 per club for the 2020/21 campaign.

Disturbed by the development, Coventry and Cornish Pirates later issued a joint statement that included the document they had formulated (click here). 

(Continue reading below…)

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It also included an appendix containing a whole host of England internationals who had played at Championship level prior to going on to earn Test caps. That list included the likes of Jonny May, Ellis Genge and Mako Vunipola to name but three.

“We are not going to be going away quietly,” read the statement accompanying the document’s release. “The RFU is one funding option but we will now actively continue discussions with other potential funding partners whereby we can achieve our ambitions of being a vibrant, dynamic and entertaining league in our own right which makes a clear and demonstrable contribution to the growth of English rugby as a whole.

“The Championship is an RFU tournament, meaning that the clubs do not control the league’s sponsorship rights; these are held by Twickenham. 

“But over the last few years we have received no Championship-specific sponsorship funding, no Championship-specific TV broadcast deal, or any promotion by Twickenham of the community work which is being done by our clubs, such as wheelchair rugby, suicide prevention, and helping older people with dementia, and could also suffer as a result of these cuts.

“For the RFU to then use their own failure to deliver on these as a justification for unilaterally decimating the Championship is nothing short of outrageous, not least because it has come from people – CEO Bill Sweeney and director of performance rugby Conor O’Shea – who have been in post for only a short time, in Conor’s case just a matter of weeks and with Bill only having been in the sport for six months. 

“Furthermore there has been no formal audit process regarding the criteria they have used, and aside from the England-qualified player targets none of the criteria had funding related to them.

“We believe there is considerable potential within the league, whether in our player identification and development; the opportunities to play an important role in the growth and development of constituent bodies and England’s aspirational teams (England Counties, etc); investing in the innovative community and outreach work; and providing a permanent link between the university and professional game.

“Many of our clubs have also been investing in facilities or have plans to develop their grounds to provide better experiences for players and supporters alike. All of this is now at risk thanks to the actions of an RFU chief executive and board which clearly have a lack of understanding about the value we bring to our communities and English rugby.”

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Revealed: The Championship blueprint ignored by the budget-slashing RFU
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