Bill Sweeney has revealed the RFU will look to phase in its radical cut to Championship funding over a two-season period to help the affected clubs adjust to their new situation.

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The RFU announced on February 12 that its current payment of £534,000 per year will drop to a 2015 level of £288,000 per club. That resulted in the second-tier clubs claiming many jobs were now under threat due to the funding shortfall. 

Sweeney, though, has claimed the cuts will now be phased in. ”We’re looking at phasing that reduction over a longer period over two years,” he said to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “We have gone to them and said: ‘Look, we can reschedule these cuts over a period of two years, and work with you in terms of how to how to manage that situation’.

“The other thing we said is, ‘Let’s sit down and work together as a group and figure out what is the role of the Championship’. 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.”

The RFU were roundly criticised by clubs for its cost-cutting measures, but Sweeney insisted that the £3million reduction was needed so the RFU can fund other parts of the game.

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“We have 2,000 clubs out there. There are a lot of things that we want to do around developing the women’s game, facilities and the grassroots game, and that needs funding and we simply can’t fund everything to 100 per cent. How do you apportion the money appropriately? And do we feel we’re getting the right correct level of return?

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“If you actually look at the spend on the Championship since 2015, our cuts in the professional game have gone down 15 per cent, our cuts in the community game have gone down five per cent. If you take out that 100 per cent increase that Championship clubs (have had), it’s gone down by three per cent. So actually, they have borne less of the pain of the last five years.

“I can promise that I do personally care very much. We do care very much. We’ve got 560 people here at the RFU. We’re all very passionate about rugby. I’ve worked in the corporate sector now in the sports sector. And one of the things I can say to you is it’s a privilege to work in the sport that you love.

“But when you make decisions in the sporting world, you’re dealing with people’s emotions, and it’s very difficult.”

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