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Two more Gallagher Premiership clubs in financial peril - reports

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

England’s Gallagher Premiership woke up to damaging headlines on Wednesday morning, with separate reports claiming that Newcastle Falcons are considering voluntary relegation to the Championship while players and staff at London Irish are fearing not being paid their monthly salaries. The disturbing headlines come five months after both Worcester and Wasps were liquidated, resulting in the 13-team competition getting dramatically reduced to 11 for the 2022/23 season.


The sport has been delivering on the pitch, with numerous commentators describing the quality of on-pitch play this year as the best ever in the Premiership. There have also been some recent bumper attendances, with Harlequins attracting 54,669 to Twickenham earlier this month and Saracens getting 55,109 along to Tottenham last weekend.

However, the financial pinch has refused to go away and there have been regular anxieties about the financial viability of the Gallagher Premiership in the wake of the early-season demise of Worcester and Wasps.

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With a 10-team league suggested for next season to balance out the fixture list, it has now been speculated that Newcastle might willingly exit the top flight for the Championship, while a delay in new investment is separately causing concern at London Irish despite last Saturday’s win over Northampton in front of a 13,543 attendance lifting them into the playoff positions.

City AM broke the story on Newcastle, reporting: “Newcastle Falcons have denied suggestions that the club’s recent cost-cutting is paving the way to voluntarily drop out of the Premiership next year. City AM has learned of a growing belief in English rugby that the Tyneside team could be looking to ease their financial situation by joining the Championship as part of a wider shake-up of the domestic game.


“Newcastle have initiated a major offloading of talent during the current season, with England international duo George McGuigan and Trevor Davison shipped out, to Gloucester and Northampton Saints respectively, as well as a number of talented youngsters… Furthermore, it is understood that a number of Newcastle players are out of contract at the end of the season with the club grappling, as many others are, with the need to cut costs and remain within Premiership Rugby’s current £5m salary cap.

“The club has made a dramatic cut in season ticket prices for the 2023-24 season from £294 to £180, which puts them in line with many Championship clubs and cheaper than some second-tier sides, such as Ealing Trailfinders and Doncaster Knights, this season.


“Newcastle chiefs told City AM that they had not had any discussions with Premiership Rugby about voluntarily dropping into the Championship in 2024 or otherwise. Premiership Rugby declined to comment.”

Meanwhile, Sportsmail reported the alleged salary uncertainty at London Irish. “London Irish players, coaches and staff are anxiously waiting to discover if they will be paid later this week amid growing fears of financial turmoil, as a buy-out of the club has been delayed.

“Sportsmail has learned that Exiles employees are worried about the threat of their monthly wages not being received. It is understood that coaches and players have been seeking assurances, after being made aware of potential trouble.

“On Tuesday night, Premiership Rugby and the RFU claimed that ‘a cash flow solution’ has been found, to alleviate the danger of the payroll deadline not being met. However, any solution is based on confirmation of new investment – believed to be from the United States – which has been held up for some time.


“Well-placed sources say this is not the first time this season that there have been doubts over wages, at a time when owner Mick Crossan has been trying to relinquish control of the club. It is thought that there were similar fears around Christmas, which proved to be unfounded. Employees have been told repeatedly that a buy-out is imminent – but that is yet to take place.

“The PRL hierarchy are convinced it will happen ‘soon’, with the spectre of Wasps and Worcester’s financial collapses still looming large over the sport. Crossan told Sportsmail last September that he was ready to give Irish away for free, having presided over a return to London from Reading, in a ground-share with Brentford.”


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