I did wonder whether the front page lead of last weekend’s The Rugby Paper would grab the attention of many Coventry supporters on the messageboard and elsewhere these past couple of days.
And I’m a little surprised.
Potentially, it’s a real kick in the teeth.
The headline of ‘RFU face uproar over wage cap proposals’, followed by an opening paragraph suggesting that clubs below the Championship are going to have ‘swingeing’ wage caps imposed on them from the 2018/19 season onwards certainly got my blood boiling, especially as the article went on to suggest that this might particularly affect:
ambitious National League One sides with designs on promotion to Level 2.
TRP revealed that following a meeting last week, the Community Game Board (an RFU working party) were presented with proposals to limit:
gross player payments including all employment costs and benefits in kind, to £150,000 per club in National 1.
with a further reduction of £50,000 for National 2 and again for National 3 – so in effect ensuring that National 3 clubs under the proposed changes would receive no more than £50,000 I total.
Under the same proposals, clubs in Level 6 and below would not be allowed to make any payments to their players.
Were this to go ahead, I can only believe that the next step would be to bring an end to any promotion and relegation between National 1 and the Championship so that the top two tiers are ring-fenced. Even without such a move, in effect the club promoted into the Championship that year would almost certainly be demoted come the end of the season given that it would have to start the Championship with what would most likely be a completely new squad, given the budget it operated on in National 1. Under the present system, even though there’s no level playing field even at the moment, at least promoted clubs to have a chance of surviving under the present system, as proved by Ealing Trailfinders last season.
Apparently, such wage caps are not legally enforceable…and hurrah for that…
…although the RFU, showing its true colours (and indeed loyalties), has already thought ahead and deemed that any club breaking the proposed financial capping would face massive sanctions, including the:
loss of funding in relation to travel and will be disqualified from applying for RFU loans or grants for ground maintenance and facilitation projects.
Which just seems plain vindictive to me.
The article suggests that the committee believe that payment to players in ‘the community game’ is bringing about some problems connected to the ‘ethos’ of the game (I’m not sure what that means) as well as the development of the some clubs. Hence the reason why there is a ‘guideline’ (really?) range:
for paying players between Levels 3 and 5, and associated measures for those who choose to pay more than the guideline amounts and who choose to pay anything at Level 6 and below.
The writer of the article is of the view that the more ambitious clubs, those that have aspirations of re-joining the ‘professional ranks’ (and here it names sides ‘like Coventry, Birmingham Moseley and Plymouth Albion’) could well be compromised. The article quotes a National 1 league club ‘insider’ as suggesting at the moment clubs hopeful of securing promotion to the Championship might have to spend upwards of £400,000 in order to assemble a side not only capable of winning National 1, but also competing well enough in the Championship to be able to survive there for longer than just one season.
Apparently, these proposals could agreed in principle as early as next month with final approval April 2017.
It raises all sorts of issues for me and I can’t help but think most teams in National 1, as well as a fair few in the leagues below, will have greeted the news with considerable misgivings, to put it mildly. Chairmen, clubs, players and even supporters with any real thoughts of promotion through the league system are being penalised for simply being ambitious.
I’m not even sure the premise on which it is based is correct, given that the ‘professional ranks’ already include several teams in National 1, of which Cov is but one. And would this impact on clubs like Loughborough Students and Hartpury College which are surely funded differently?
And how on earth can payments to players to enable them to be full-time create problems in the community game when in Coventry’s case it allows these same players to work specifically within the local community to promote rugby at all levels and develop links and especially with local schools and educational institutions? The fantastic work that Matt Price and his team do is reliant on them being full-time professional rugby players, putting in 892 hours of coaching alone this month (if I’ve read that right…). Surely to goodness, that can only have a positive influence on the ‘ethos’ of the game at a junior level?
The whole things has a rather foul smell, and it’s all the more malodorous because it’s wafting down from the highest ranks of the RFU itself. This appears to be yet another attempt at ensuring the top clubs remain at the top to the detriment of everyone else.
The premiership teams will continue to develop their academy sides at the expense of National clubs, supported by outrageous sums of money made possible by massive television deals. All this whilst the smaller cubs are left to rot and fester in the lower leagues where ambition and aspiration can no longer be watchwords for clubs like ours.
At least that’s how the RFU would have it.
Or so it seems to me.
But fortunately, there are those who will do battle with the RFU and maybe such proposals can be prevented. Hopefully, the likes of Jon Sharp and the other National 1 chairmen are better informed about these proposals and actually the reality is less frightening, but the article certainly suggests that clubs like Coventry will certainly be the losers, and big ones at that, should the proposals go ahead.
And the disappointing thing for me is that there seems to be so little consultation involved. Proposals were put to the RFU working party last month and are set to be agreed next month…?
Those involved in the working party include representatives from 3 lower league clubs, England and Wales cricket, UK Athletics, financial experts Ernst and Young and former England hooker, Brian Moore. I wonder which were the three teams from lower leagues who represented our interests…were any of them one of the top National 1 sides with ambitions of Championship rugby?
It’s all very depressing.
Yet there is one glimmer of hope though, with TRP suggesting that:
Communication with clubs is planned to take place during the 2017-18 season ahead of implementation the following season.
But even that, given the wording, suggests that it is all a bit of a ‘fait accompli’, with consultation coming as it does at such a late stage in the proceedings and a date for implantation already agreed. I’m sure the RFU will argue that is just standard practice to provide a calendar of when the various stages are scheduled to take place, but it does come across as being something of a done deal, although it seem that way to me as a result of my own cynicism towards the RFU rather than the belief that the process is all open and above board.
Perhaps from Cov’s perspective the real solution to all this is to get ourselves promoted before the 2018/18 season, which is pretty much the timetable Cov have in mind anyway, given that 2018 would be three yeas post Rowland Winter’s appointment. By so doing, we take away any of the potential calamitous consequences that might result from implementation of these proposals the following season were we still to be in National 1.
It does seem more imperative than ever that we become masters of our own destiny and the less we leave to the chance and the whims and vagaries of the RFU the better. I’m sure there is more to this lead in TRP than meets the eye and hopefully there will be others who have far more understanding of the situation than myself. It would be good to hear what the club’s response to the RFU’s proposals are and whether they feel that they are likely to be implemented in the formal outlined in the article.
Given the prominence that TRP has attached to them, then I’m guessing this is a story that still has some legs in it and that is more to come, but I thought it would at least provide some interest to those who might not have seen it in the news over the weekend.
Also in TRP on Sunday was a great review of the Macclesfield game by John Wilkinson with photos of Eoghan Grace going over for his try and Will Maisey in full flight.
Because it was the featured game in National 1 last weekend in TRP, each player was given a rating out of 10, something which I think adds a bit of interest post game, especially for those who were at the game. It something many papers offer regularly for Premiership football games.
I’m guessing JW had the dubious honour of awarding the scores this week…and the top scores on the doors this week:
Maisey, Snyman, Daynes and Grace got 8s, but Darrell Dyer got a 9 and was the ‘Star Man’.
It would be fun to have something like this set up on the club’s official (or unofficial) website and registered supporters could vote every week…perhaps leading to an award for the player with the best average over the season (minimum 10 appearances, perhaps). I’m not sure how hard it would be to create….just a thought.
It’s good to be back home.
Late home yesterday evening followed by a decent night’s sleep. But I have a feeling that the jet lag won’t kick in until later today, which is why I’m writing this post (Thursday’s) early Wed morning – just in case I fall asleep in the armchair tonight. And there’s every chance of that!
Lots of things to do over the next few days…
We loaned the house out to my son and his girlfriend whilst we were away. They’re in the process of buying their own place and so it made sense to give them a bit of time in each other’s company as they’re living some distance apart at the moment.
Fortunately, they’re still together after almost 3 weeks (which bodes well for the future) and the garden is in a much better condition that it would have been had it been left unattended – someone did a lot of watering!
Still, the lawn needs cutting and there’s some general tidying up to be done. We see the grandchildren early evening which is exciting.
And then, come Thursday, Blackheath doesn’t seem quite so far away.
Team news tomorrow (or today by the time you read this) and the gradual build up to the weekend. I’ve missed watching live rugby and win, lose or draw I’m really looking forward to seeing Cov on Saturday; hopefully we’ll get to see an entertaining game of rugby.
A Cov win would be particularly pleasing as it would make for a cracking game against league leaders Hartpury College the weekend after. If that doesn’t put a couple of hundred more on the home gate, then I don’t know what will.