Club talk

Premiership’s ambitious proposals for the Championship to include Coventry as well?

I may win on the roundabout
Then I’ll lose on the swings
In or out, there is never a doubt
Just who’s pulling the strings
I’m all tied up to you
But where’s it leading me to?

Sandie Shaw – Like A Puppet On A String

With little or no additional monies appearing to be forthcoming now or in the future from the RFU to support Championship clubs, many of whom are in serious financial difficulties, it seems it’s been left to the Premiership to hand Tier 2 teams a lifeline…

…but with strings attached.

So many, in fact, that were they to accept it Championship clubs would be in danger of becoming something akin to puppets…

…with the Premiership pulling all the strings.

In or out, there is never a doubt
Just who’s pulling the strings
I’m all tied up to you
But where’s it leading me to?

And if the article in last week’s The Rugby Paper is to be believed, the same offer could also be made to the more ambitious clubs in National 1 as well, with Coventry being mentioned by name…

Apparently, Premierships clubs were presented with the following proposals at a meeting last Tuesday (I have précised the article as much as possible):

  • Premiership clubs are proposing to scrap the A-League and will instead loan out to Championship sides ‘unlimited’ numbers of squad players who are not getting game time in the Premiership;
  • Championship teams will be asked to indicate before the beginning of the season whether they will be ‘expressing an interest’ in promotion into the top tier of English rugby;
  • Those that confirm they won’t be will then be eligible to ‘buddy up’ with a Premiership club and have access to up to 12 of that club’s  first team squad, as well as any amount of Academy players;
  • Those Championship clubs that agree to buddy up will automatically forego promotion into the Premiership;
  • However, those clubs that express an interest in promotion and fund their own squads over the course of the season will be entitled to just 4 on-loan players – hardly then a level playing field for the self-funded clubs, making it very, very difficult for them to beat other Championship teams made up of premiership first team squad players;
  • From next season it is likely that there will be no play off games in the Championship, with the Premiership clubs compensating the Championship sides to the tune of £1.7m to go back to the ‘first past the post’ system;

The above were the only details to be outlined, but it also appears that a number of clubs in National 1 would also be offered the opportunity to take part in the proposed changes, including ‘Moseley, Coventry, Plymouth and Darlington’.

What isn’t made clear is if a club that has ‘buddy-ed’ up with a premiership side finishes top, does the best placed self-funded team take the promotion spot or is there no promotion that season?

Again, it isn’t clear if, in agreeing to be part of such a scheme, National 1 clubs involved will automatically become part of the Championship (unlikely because there then wouldn’t be enough Premiership clubs to buddy-up with), or if they have to fight it out amongst themselves in National 1 for the right to promotion into the Championship?

In which case the remaining 12 clubs in National 1 not included in the process will be unlikely ever to gain promotion themselves.

The proposals, being pushed forward by Nigel Melville, in his role as RFU director of professional rugby, are seen as a way round giving game time to many of the current Premiership squads (averaging between 50 and 70 players) as well as dramatically reducing playing costs of clubs like ‘Nottingham and Rotherham’ (presumably suggesting they would be content to stay in the Championship and benefit from the loan of players from their Premiership partner):

The Championship clubs have squads of 35 professionals and semi-pros they can’t afford and the Premiership clubs have got massive squads of 50-70 professionals, a lot of whom don’t play, so why don’t we marry the two together and find a solution to benefit everybody?

According to ‘a well-place Premiership insider’,  such a plan would raise the standard of the game played in the Championship and would also allow clubs taking part in this closer relationship with premiership sides to focus more on improving their facilities, thus increasing their attendances.

The same ‘insider’ is quoted as saying:

The Championship has almost been an embarrassment to the RFU and they’ve totally neglected it for the last seven years. It’s the second tier of what professes to be the biggest Rugby Union in the world, yet virtually every club is bankrupt…A solution has been found and control of the Championship must fall to the Premiership.

All very ‘noble’ idea…

…but a far too grandiose one for my liking.

It certainly looks as if this is a serious proposal and one that I would imagine the Premiership sides will be very much in favour of. Just how popular it will be amongst Championship sides is much less clear and I’m sure there will be a number of clubs that would be very concerned that buddying up  would rule out any chance of promotion.

As a supporter of one of those Championship clubs agreeing to waver their right to promotion, I think I would be very unhappy at the lack of ambition being displayed by my board as well as concerned about the impact on local, home grown, talent. Such a move would have a detrimental on grass roots rugby in that area, surely?

It isn’t clear from the article if clubs forming partnerships with Premiership sides would also be exempt from relegation (although it does say there will be relegation – but maybe just for those sides that are self-funded?) or, indeed, how the RFU would view such a fundamental change – for instance, would the RFU continue to pay Championship clubs the £500,000+ they are currently in receipt of?

However, with so many clubs in Tier two seemingly facing a very uncertain future, it could well be an attractive proposition and would probably guarantee a greater degree of security for them. Whether it would get the backing of all clubs in that division, or indeed if all would need all to agree, is another unknown, as would be the case for National 1.

One of the fundamental tenets on which national league rugby has always been based is the principle of promotion and relegation. This proposal seems to exempt any number of Championship sides from promotion at the very least and, quite possibly, relegation too. Whilst the current system is floored and hardly egalitarian, it does make for a more competitive structure than that put forward by the Premiership.

Just how clubs like Coventry would fit into these plans remains unclear, but it would have massive implications both for Cov and for the whole of National 1 and would certainly marginalise those teams not involved.

It is suggested, again by the Premiership ‘insider’, that:

If we get the right people in charge and the right rules and regulations in place, it will stop clubs going out of business while still offering ambitious full-time teams like Doncaster and Cornish Pirates a chance of promotion

but if that is the real reason behind the proposals then there must be other, fairer, ways to support cash-starved clubs in the Championship (and indeed in National 1)  to provide ‘a viable way of helping Championship sides cut costs and survive’. A more equal distribution of television revenues would seem an obvious solution?

It is, of course, just a red-herring designed to divert attention from the real motive, namely further empire-building on the part of the Premiership, with little or no concern for the impact this might have on rugby below the elite level.

It’s hard to see how such a divisive proposal could ever get taken any further, yet such is the influence of the Premiership and such is the ineffectiveness of the RFU, that nothing would surprise me any more.

The fact that it’s there on the front page of The Rugby Paper is indicative of the credibility it is being given…

A happy rugby new year…?

…for some, perhaps, but not for all, if this is anything to go by.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Many thanks again to everyone who has so far voted in the Coventry Rugby Club’s ‘Most Valuable Player’ poll; fewer voted yesterday but enough to keep open for another day. Today will, however, be the last day anyone who hasn’t voted will have the chance to do so. If you haven voted as yet, please do so.

And if voting patterns continue, there might be a couple of surprises on the cards. Certainly it’s all quite tight at the top at the moment…

Further details of MVP poll

You have up to 4 votes…please just tick against the appropriate name(s). You don’t have to use all 4, but by using them you open the vote up to more players which adds a bit more interest.

The players will appear in the poll in a random order, not one that I’ve come up with. If the software works, you should only be allowed to have just one set of 4 votes and once you’ve voted you won’t be able to revote  on a different day or through a different post.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Puppet On A String – Sandie Shaw

Watch the audience – priceless!

 

 

13 replies »

  1. Read the article in the Rugby Paper with varying different emotions. One was the feeling of the ‘Blackmail Approach ‘, offer the club’s a way out by dangling financial incentives as the ‘ come-on, come up and see me sometime!’ Then, it was the ‘ you’ll be on your own, and see us disappear in the distance and fall further behind’. This , as Quent says the debts , and they are debts, however much they say they are payable, £60 million and £32 million is a lot of worry for someone. Lack of form, dwindling support, withdrawal of TV money, all could put it up in the air and pull the rug from these clubs.
    I much prefer the organic, softly, softly approach. Cov, to our costs, have twice suffered financial meltdown. Never again.
    We strive , we work together. Cov, blue collar, led by white collar, all pulling for our club to get where we want to be. Perhaps, rather simplistically, we could label ourselves as an educational institution and claim taxpayers money. Just a thought.

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    • It’s definitely the ‘Blackmail Approach’ as far as I am concerned…with the implied threat of ‘face ruin if you don’t join us’. What Cov are doing is by far the best approach, and certainly one that will ensure greater financial security, but would it enable us to compete with those teams in National 1 that succumb to the filthy lucre of the big boys and buddy up with their local Premiership clubs? I’m not so sure it would, in which case we could be in limbo for quite some time…? I do like the idea of becoming a registered educational institution though, a ‘free’ club as opposed to a ‘free’ school…must be squillions of pounds available from the government for such a forward-thinking initiative.
      Have a great Christmas with the family, and a happy and successful new year…and thanks for all the support, advice and encouragement over the year.

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  2. Some clubs wish to go no further than the division that they compete in. Many clubs would like to go back to an amateur status in lower leagues. When you hear of tales of how much players are getting at some clubs the mind set completely baffles people. Look at Hartpury College in our own sphere are they not doing very similar to the proposals ? Thanks Tim for highlighting the articule. But the over riding fear I have that the game from level three down will just be on it’s own.

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    • I absolutely agree about Hartpury…but look at the damage they have done to our league…it must be the most uncompetitive of all the national leagues simply because of the Hartpury links to a Premiership side. From week three it’s been a non-contest. I do think you’re right, most teams would settle for amateur status, but not in the Championship and I’m sure supporters would rather see their team compete with their own players rather than someone else’s? I just find the whole thing extremely frustrating really…anyway, that aside, it has definitely been a better second half of the year for Cov and with the prospect of even better times ahead…

      Have a lovely Christmas, Mick and a peaceful, healthy and happy new year…

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  3. It seems to me that they are hell bent on following the soccer model. The introduction this year of reserve premiership teams playing in cup competitions is very similar to some of these proposals. It’s a protection racket pure and simple. Remember the European super league proposal in football? This was blocked so low and behold it becomes the “champions” league where 75% of the teams are not champions!
    The whole thing stinks, the sales pitch being, we will help the lower clubs……as long as we can ring fence the premiership!

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  4. I can understand Cov and other clubs having players on loan at the moment, as they are adding to the quality of the squads (especially while we undergo all of RW’s changes to the squad) – but I think if the Cov team on a Saturday was mostly Wasps players then for my £15 I might as well pay to see Wasps at the Ricoh.
    I know rugby can’t really have a reserve league a la football, due to the toll the players bodies take – but surely there must be something that can be done to get fringe players or those coming back from injury playing together regularly and competitively.

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    • Warren – I have to agree, my concern is that under these RFU proposals in future years we may not be watching Coventry vs Moseley, as it could morph into Wasps reserves vs Worcester reserves. In which case why not go and the the First XV at the Ricoh. Interesting times ahead for Coventry and other long established rugby clubs and lets hope the RFU recognises and supports these clubs.

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      • Hi Quent….totally agree that under these proposals, were Cov to agree to them, we would end up watching Wasps A/Extras in all but name and I, for one, would find that very difficult to stomach.
        The only thing I’d add is that these are the Premiership’s proposals, under Melville, and not the RFU’s…I don’t think the two are the same, are they?

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    • Hi Warren…it’s a problem for the Premiership to solve and without having to compromise the Championship or National 1 to do it. I want Cov to play Championship rugby but having earned the right to do so using our own players, for the most part, and not, in effect, a whole team that has been loaned to us by Wasps. I can’t see many things persuading me to stop watching Cov after 50 plus years, but that would be one of them…

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  5. Isn’t it amazing that all those years have passed since Will Carling’s (now infamous) comment, and nothing has changed for the better? Despite the inevitable encroachment of businesses in to picture by way of sponsorship (to the clubs) the Aaaah Eff U is still mired in an extraordinarily un-business like working practice and is blindly coming up with proposals such as this which shows what an unmitigated bunch of Old Farts they still are.

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    • Think this is coming from the Premiership clubs and not the RFU to be fair…I don’t think they are one and the same? That said, the same comment applies pretty much….they seem more than willing to sacrifice the integrity of clubs in leagues below the Premiership for their own benefit and with little, if any, understanding of what it means to support those clubs. Very disappointing news indeed. I know others have said it elsewhere, but thank you for all your work getting the supporters’ club up and running this season…it’s been a revelation and you and Quent deserve huge praise for your vision and tenacity in seeing things through…Happy Christmas, Cliff

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  6. All I can say regarding these proposals from the RFU is ‘interesting’, but most probably for all the wrong reasons. Seriously, if this the best ‘solution’ the RFU can devise then I fear long term for the game as a whole, particularly at NL 1 levels & below. From the RFU perspective the logical choice would be for Coventry to ‘buddy’ up with Wasps, you could argue that is already starting to happen. However, under the ‘buddy up’ system what happens to the players who are displaced by the buddy and so on, If your team now has no prospect of promotion and you will be watching in essence a premier league ‘reserve’ team, how will that attract more fans, what is the incentive. Furthermore, the premiership is far from being the Holy Grail, Saracens and Wasps are £60m & £35m in debt respectively with the other premiership clubs having similar debt burdens. The message is very clear, the entire financial structure of the whole game requires radical overhaul, as Will Carling quoted many years ago, the RFU is run by 57 old farts, hence nothing will change certainly for the better.

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    • Already responded to the last comment but just wanted to wish you a Happy Christmas, Quent. What you, and Cliff, have achieved has been incredible (along with the rest of the Committee of course) and mirrors very much the progress we’ve seen on the playing side of the club…shame the rest is lagging behind a bit though…all the very best…Tim

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