"Close to following" - The RFU could be set for more trouble with clubs - Ruck

“Close to following” – The RFU could be set for more trouble with clubs

Rugby Football Union faces critical challenge as ‘Premiership 2’ plans endanger second-tier teams.

In a concerning development for the future of the second tier of rugby, Simon Halliday, the newly appointed chairman of the league, has issued a warning to the Rugby Football Union (RFU). Funding cuts imposed by the RFU have pushed Championship clubs to the brink, endangering their very existence.

The RFU, in collaboration with Premiership Rugby, has expressed plans to introduce a rebranded ‘Premiership 2’ in the 2025-26 season. However, Halliday has sounded the alarm, cautioning that there may not be enough clubs willing and able to participate in the new division. This concern arises from a significant reduction of approximately 80 percent in funding, leaving Championship clubs struggling to maintain their operations.

The financial setback faced by Championship teams began in 2020 when their funding was initially reduced from £600,000 to £288,000. Unfortunately, this decrease was further slashed to around £160,000 under the guise of a temporary measure in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Regrettably, this reduction has since become deeply entrenched, severely compromising the stability of the clubs. After accounting for insurance and travel costs, most clubs find themselves left with meager funds, barely surpassing £50,000.

Consequently, several teams have been compelled to abandon their full-time programs, and others are now contemplating following suit.

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“You cannot kick the can down the road any more,” Halliday told Telegraph Sport.

“There is no more road left because clubs are on the brink. You have to be worried about how some clubs have been able to do it themselves without any help.

“These are not poorly managed clubs, in any sense, but they have to know why they are continuing to put money in.

“If you don’t take care of them then you create the ultimate disconnect between the professional and community game and I don’t think you can ever get it back.”

List of the Premiership’s five most at risk clubs makes worrying reading

All clubs in the Gallagher Premiership have been facing a concerning period, as highlighted by the Press Association News Agency‘s recent report.

An investigation conducted earlier this season revealed the dire financial crisis engulfing English rugby, with Premiership clubs accumulating debts exceeding £500 million.

Furthermore, a thorough analysis of the clubs’ latest financial accounts unveiled that Premiership clubs collectively owed more than £36 million in taxes, with only two out of the 13 clubs having a positive balance with the HMRC.

Outlined below is an examination of the current situation of five clubs, and the findings are deeply concerning.

#1. LONDON IRISH – TEETERING

PA wrote: “Burdened by debts of around £30million and with an owner desperate to sell in Mick Crossan, London Irish are shaping up to become the next club to be removed from the Premiership.

All staff must be paid on Wednesday for the month of May for the Irish to be granted a deadline extension for their proposed takeover by an American consortium. “

Rob Simmons of London Irish during the Gallagher Premiership match between London Irish and Leicester Tigers at The Gtech Community Stadium, London on 25 February 2023 (Photo: Danny Loo/PPAUK)

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