Last week I posted about the RFUs plans to impose sweeping wage caps on all leagues below the Championship, with a ceiling on gross player payments for all National 1 teams of £150,000, as outlined in last week’s edition of The Rugby Paper.
Whilst these proposals appear to have remained surprisingly low on most Cov supporters’ radar, this Sunday’s TRP has a response from none other than our own Phil Maynard, under the headline ‘Frustrated Maynard vows to fight RFU ‘dictatorship”.
From what PM is suggesting in the article, it would appear that many clubs in National 1 are up in arms at the RFU working party’s recommendations, with PM branding them as ‘naïve and insulting’, presumably a fairly typical response from those clubs looking to gain promotion into the Championship and who fear that this is another RFU attempt to ring fence the top two ties of national league rugby, this time through the back door.
Even with the threat of sanctions being imposed against clubs failing to comply with said wage caps, including the loss of future funding of travel and grants for infrastructure projects, it looks as if the likes of Coventry Moseley, Plymouth and Blackheath are not going to play ball…whatever its shape:
We’ll ignore their wage cap – as I imagine most clubs in this division will.
What PM rightly mentions, and something in my naivety I’d completely failed to include last week, is that Coventry already have an annual turnover of £1,300,000, so no wonder that the club feels that it can:
push on again, sustainably
despite the financial difficulties it experienced six years ago.
Whilst the RFU has a duty of care to the clubs under its direction, as well as to the players, supporters and investors, I have to say that it is plain wrong to expect clubs to tolerate restrictions placed upon them, restrictions that will limit the aspirations and ambitions of not just of the clubs themselves, but also the players, too. And for a lot of players National 1 is a stepping stone to the Championship and beyond, so cutting the salary structure is self-defeating as it will almost certainly result in the loss of some talented players to the higher leagues. Perversely, a proposed salary cap might also bring about exactly what the RFU is seemingly hoping to avoid, more clubs facing financial ruin.
Well, it seems to me that crowds are attracted to competitive rugby, to watching games where they believe outcomes will impact ultimately on promotion and/or relegation. By effectively ensuring that promotion from National 1 to the Championship is purely for 12 months at best, and enticing any promising youngsters in the Championship/Premiership A teams rather than blooding them in National 1, average attendances will continue to fall and much needed revenue will be cut off at source. It’s a recipe for disaster…
Even discounting the concerns outlined above, all clubs should have the right to work their way up to the higher tiers – Jersey, for instance, completed a ‘meteoric five level rise from the lower levels in 2012’ and are looking to achieve Premiership status in the next few years.
Under Malcolm Wharton’s proposals it is unlikely we will ever see something similar again, and even for the likes of myself, a long-suffering Cov supporter who remembers all too clearly the club’s halcyon days of the ’60s and ’70s, but who has since seen the likes of Ealing, Doncaster, Exeter, Bath, Jersey et al ascend the league structure as we have descended, that can’t be good for the game.
PM rightly points out that the working party is made up of people who have ‘little to do with the modern game’ and of the three clubs represented, none were from above tier 5 – something which actually makes a mockery of the whole process. Echoes, perhaps, of Will Carling’s ’57 boring old farts’ comment and a sure indication that little has change from the time he was playing the game?
I’m pleased that Coventry have responded quickly and decisively – and it’s important that other National 1 clubs follow suit. Everyone needs to be of one voice on this and ensure that once again the RFU is defeated, as was the case with the national league review back in 2014.
Rather than dwell further on the fall out from Saturday’s heavy defeat at the hands of Blackheath, I thought I’d lighten the mood a little and share a personal anecdote with you from Saturday, one that is playing heavily on my conscience and that I need to voice, if only for my own peace of mind.
The trip to Blackheath was a memorable one for all the wrong reasons, and not just those associated with the game itself.
The day started well enough, but the return journey was something of a nightmare, with the supporters’ coach taking some 5 hours 40 minutes to complete the return journey. Setting out from the Blackheath ground at 6.00 pm, little did we expect our arrival at the BPA would be close to midnight. And as Sam (my son) and I had intended to catch the train home…well, for a while, it looked like we might be camping out overnight on Row L of the main stand – reserved seats for season ticket holders , so no worries about having to evict anyone first.
Every now and again I reveal something about myself – more often than not a character trait that is probably less than endearing. However, exposing one’s faults can be cathartic, so I’m hoping today’s post might be good for both body and soul.
Much of life is about routines and rituals, and rugby is no exception. Sam and I have always gone for something to eat before a game, either in the ground or more often than not, at a local hostelry close-by. Saturday, despite the early start, was to be no exception, so we made our way into Cov and enjoyed one of MacDonald’s finest offerings, the double sausage and egg McMuffin…as a meal deal of course, with a hash brown and a hot drink.
Few better ways to spend £3.50…
…although not perhaps the healthiest of ways to start the day. But this was to be our day out, a day trip to Blackheath with all the trimmings.
Guilt factor 5 admittedly, given that it was odds on that we’d be eating a burger at the Blackheath ground later in the day, but the hell with it. Sometimes you just have to sacrifice the few principles you have left.
As it proved again on our arrival at ‘Club’s’ ground.
The Blackheath offering was a very decent effort (see below) and so good was it that I actually made pretty much the ultimate sacrifice and declined the chips, preferring the burger on its own (this might also have also had something to do with the fact that the chips weren’t ready when got to the bar).
All’s well and good, then…standard fare for a pre-match meal, accepting of course that it was the second burger of the day. I know, I know, but it’s kind of rugby’s equivalent of footie’s pie and chips and as such is pretty much the obligatory match day food.
And had I stopped there, there would be little of merit in this anecdote…but stay with me, here.
Sue, my all-forgiving wife (and hopefully she’ll remain so once she’s read this), had kindly offered to make us something when we got back. Sam lives close by, so it’s easy for him just to pop in for a bite before heading home.
But there was a problem.
The journey back was slow and painful and as a result of accidents and road works, the driver ended up going over his hours – thus necessitating a stop at the Northampton services.
Now here’s the thing…10.15 pm and still an hour and a half from Cov. Tired and hungry and confronted with a range of food bars, what does one do?
Okay, I admit I knew there was a meal waiting at home for me and I also admit that the third burger of the day wasn’t the most sensible of choices, but I am weak-willed and made of but flesh and blood.
So I did what I did…
…and ordered a quarter pounder with cheese, fries and a cold drink.
MacDonald’s, I salute you – you know exactly how best to break a man’s resolve (which in my case was none existent)…
Enjoyable as it was, the final part of the journey home was pretty much a conversation between Sam and I as to how best to get around mentioning the 3rd burger when we got back without actually lying. Sue kindly came and picked us up from the car park and we steered the conversation around the game rather than the culinary delights of the day, nearly giving ourselves away when agreeing a little too vigorously when Sue said that we must both be hungry.
Meal 4, chilli and rice, was lovely but however much I tried, I couldn’t quite get rid of the bitter taste of gluttony that accompanied every mouthful.
And the the indigestion in the middle of the night….
Just desserts I guess.
And following on from the above, I thought I might introduce a new feature to the blog this season…
At great personal risk and not inconsiderable discomfort, I’ll do a quick review of the burgers offered at each of the grounds we visit this season, starting with Coventry’s offering on Saturday. I’ll take a photo, give a quick summary to include cost, appearance, taste and value for money and the winning club will be notified accordingly. It is a accolade I’m sure that catering teams the length and breadth of National 1 will be desperate to win…
I might need some guest reviewers should I be unable to attend. If anyone feels they have the right qualifications for what is, after all, a position of great responsibility, please let me know.
Had I thought it through, I should have started with yesterday’s, which as it happens was a pretty decent offering and would have received a 7.5/10 on the ‘burgometer’. But, given that I don’t have a photo, I’ll start with Coventry’s own burger next weekend.
Just out of interest – did anyone have one at Moseley? And from memory – at which ground did you enjoy your best match day burger. Mone was definitely at the Bees when they played at the Solihull Moors (I think) many years ago. Am salivating as I type!
If it helps, by all means send me a pm via the messageboard if your wish to retain your anonymity.
I appreciate not everyone wants to be outed.