I imagine many National 1 club DoRs breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced last week that Nigel Melville’s plans encouraging Premiership clubs to ‘buddy- up’ with those in the Championship had finally collapsed.
And not before time.
Ring-fencing, which was one of the outcomes, if the not the designs, of Melville’s proposals is still very much a possibility facing National One sides in the not too distant future.
But at least this is a victory, albeit a small one, for common sense.
Those original proposals included:
- the scrapping of the A-League and the loaning out to Championship sides; ‘unlimited’ numbers of squad players not getting game time in the Premiership;
- Championship teams being 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 teams confirm they won’t being then 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 agreeing to buddy up automatically foregoing promotion into the Premiership;
- those clubs expressing an interest in promotion fund their own squads over the course of the season with an entitlement to just 4 on-loan players – (making it very, very difficult for them to beat other Championship teams made up of mostly premiership first team squad players);
- no play off games in the Championship from next season, with the Premiership clubs compensating the Championship sides to the tune of £1.7m to go back to the ‘first past the post’ system.
Whilst it does appear that common sense has indeed prevailed, the reason for the volte-face by the Premiership teams is not one made on moral grounds but based purely on the fact that what was on the table ‘simply didn’t add up’.
According to a Premiership insider quoted in last weekend’s The Rugby Paper:
…Nigel Melville’s buddy system was based on the fact that across the Premiership, on any given weekend, there were so many hundred players not playing.
But when you take out injured guys, travelling reserves, guys on conditioning programmes, or whatever, to buddy-up with someone you’d actually have to recruit more players – and who’s going to pay for that?
The Rugby Paper – 12/03/2017
Disappointingly then, really.
This is a decision that smacks more of self-interest than it does of any concern for the well-being of clubs in the Championship or below.
Suddenly finding themselves potentially out-of-pocket, the Premiership clubs are no longer interested.
However, alternative, new proposals now being suggested might also impact on National One clubs, and not necessarily in a positive way.
In yesterday’s post I mentioned how much I had enjoyed watching the contributions made at various times this season by the five dual-registered players who have played for Cov and how I hoped it is an arrangement that can be developed further next season.
Well, it now appears that Premiership clubs are pushing for Championship clubs to have access to up to 10 dual-registered players instead of the current six, with additional A-league games also being proposed.
Whilst such a move would probably provide additional game time for the Premier clubs most talented youngsters, it does mean that there might be less opportunity for clubs like Coventry to benefit. Championship sides are going to have a bigger quota available to them and those players who might be offered to National One clubs will be pulled away to play in an increased number of A-league games.
If consistency in selection is important as Boris suggests, then this is potentially going to cause some problems for Tier 3 clubs.
I do understand that such a move would help promote players qualified to play for England, but it might well mean that talented youngsters not attached to one of the Premiership academies will find it even harder to break into the professional game than it already is at present.
Also in last weekend’s The Rugby Post, Nick Cain suggested that whilst the Premiership clubs had pulled the plug on the proposed Melville initiative, Championship clubs also had grave reservations and were not prepared to sacrifice their own independence merely for the sake of a couple of extra Premiership squad players and unlimited access to those in the academy.
Whilst Nigel Melville’s proposals were being discussed by the Premiership clubs, back in January those in the Championship had begun to draw up their own plans to safeguard their futures, plans which originally included:
the ending of the ‘controversial’ tier two play-offs;
an annual £900,000 compensation package, funded by the Premiership, in order to sweeten, presumably, the loss of revenue from the play-off games;
£375,000 from the above sum to be shared amongst the sides finishing second to twelve in what ‘The Rugby Paper’ euphemistically describes as ‘meritocracy payments’, although ‘blood money’ might seem a more appropriate name, given the impact it might well have on National 1 clubs;
although yet to be confirmed, Championship sides to receive funding of £575,00 a year (up from £530,000), together with a further £60,000 for the club finishing second in the league, decreasing by £5,000 for each position below;
and here’s the killer:
- the side finishing bottom of the Championship will automatically receive £20,000 but:
may not be automatically relegated as future proposals for a play-off with the champions of National One have been submitted to the RFU.
It seems as if things have moved on since then, with the Championship clubs agreeing in principle:
- to an annual increment which has almost doubled from £1m to £1.9m ‘of which it is believed that £1.5m will be shared equally between the 12 Championship clubs, increasing their annual funding to almost £600,000 each’;
- that there will indeed be no play-offs with the promoted team being the one to finish top of the league at the end of the season;
- that there will be a further injection of around £1.5m – £6m shared amongst the Championship sides according to the clubs ‘P’ share status (I think this refers to the shares issued by the Premiership in 2005 to the 13 clubs that made up the top flight of English club rugby union at that time).
- that the remaining £400,000 of the £1.9m incremental payment will form the monies paid to clubs for finishing the season from second place down – often referred to as the ‘meritocracy’* payment
- The ‘meritocracy payment’ is seen by the RFU as a way of ensuring that clubs in the Championship remain focused over the whole season. Were there to be, for instance, a runaway leader (a la Hartpury in National One), most other teams would have little to motivate them for the final few weeks of the season (other than those in battle to avoid relegation).
A financial incentive, however small, always seems to concentrate the mind…
It also means that the teams finishing in what were formerly play-off positions get some sort of financial compensation which otherwise they would have missed out on under these new proposals.
At the moment, the initial idea to remove automatic relegation from the Championship to National One, being replaced instead by play-offs, seems to be on hold; how long for is unclear. However, from everything I’ve seen and heard, the RFU still sees that gap between tiers two and three as being the natural divide between the professional and semi-professional/amateur game.
Worryingly, Nick Cain suggests that:
…Championship clubs argue that there is a significant gap in standard and funding, and favour a home-and-away promotion/relegation play-off between the last placed side and the National 1 league winners.
Fortunately, Nick Cains ends his article with his own viewpoint – namely that if Championship winners are promoted automatically to the Premiership, so to should National One winners be promoted to the Championship
It is, he says:
a concept that our buddies in the Premiership struggle with, and it is called a fair and transparent promotion-relegation system.
Good on you, Mr Cains.
Massive congratulations must go to Tom Howe who is the ‘#AngloWelshCup 2016-17 Breakthrough Player Award winner’.
According to the Wasps website:
The competition is open to the best Under-23 players in the Anglo-Welsh Cup with shortlisted players being named after each round and Howe joins an elite group to win the award. Launched in 2012, the Breakthrough Player Award celebrates and recognises those young players who have stood out in the tournament with previous winners including Jack Nowell, Jonny May, Tom Collins and Ollie Devoto.
There were 10 players short-listed across all the teams involved, using OPTA tracking statistics for each of the games.
Jack Willis, who also played a couple of games for us whilst on loan from Wasps, came third in the poll with the winners decided via a fan vote.
Although I haven’t watched the Anglo-Welsh matches, it’s hardly surprising that Tom Howe did so well…he’s so exciting to watch, another of those players who creates a buzz amongst the crowd every time he gets the ball.
He has scored 10 tries in 10 games for Coventry this season which isn’t too bad a return.
What would we give to have somewhat produce something similar next season?
Sadly, it is unlikely we’ll see Tom back here again after the end of this season, but I’m sure he’ll be just as successful at Worcester next season as he has been for Wasps this one. With Wasps having players of the calibre of Le Roux, Wade, Daly and Bassett competing for places out wide, a move to Worcester probably gives him a better chance of first team rugby and all we can do is wish him well.
I’m sure he’s a player we’ll be hearing a lot of in seasons to come.
Well done, Tom
For full details see the Wasps’ website:
Another four players confirmed for next season and a squad of 19 already in place.
And it’s still only mid-March.
Off hand, I can’t remember a season where supporters have been kept so informed about recruitment and retention. It makes for such a refreshing change. In previous seasons I can well remember Tom Little having to deflect some vexed supporters on the Messageboard, frustrated about a lack of news coming out of the club regarding signings, old and new.
By releasing squad updates for next season so early, the club has generated plenty of interest, with most supporters excited at the prospect of seeing the likes of Jack Preece, Alex Grove, Niles Dacres and Latu Makaafi playing alongside what looks to be most of the players currently playing in the match day squads of the last few weeks.
With Coventry’s current form improving all the time, the momentum behind Coventry in terms of support is arguably at it’s strongest since the league campaign got under way.
The few concerns being openly expressed after Coventry slipped to four defeats in the first six games have since been replaced with some anxiety about our away form, but even that is waning a little now as strong performances at Plymouth and Blaydon in the last couple of games suggest that the tide might be turning in our favour away from home as well.
In a season where just about everything is new – new coaches, new DoR, new players, new approaches to the type of rugby being played – results have been good overall and getting better and the season looks to be ending as it started, on a note of optimism for the future.
In order for Cov to capitalise on this general feeling of bonhomie, and with just two home games left, hopefully advanced season ticket details will shortly be publicised. The next home game isn’t actually until the 1st April, but I guess details and offers need to be on display on the official website well before then so supporters have had time to work out which deal is best for them.
A quick check on the Messageboard shows that details of this season’s ticket prices went up on the official website almost exactly 12 months ago to the day, on the 17 March 2016 to be exact, with the original early bird offer ending on the 23rd April. Wasps have had their season membership details up for a while now and whilst I’m not sure whether there is any direct competition between us and Wasps regarding season tickets, it’s as well to be prepared.
There are those who like to order their season tickets sooner rather than later…along with the summer comes additional expenses, away days, holidays, grandchildren and White Chocolate Magnum ice-creams for starters….so getting the cost of next season’s ticket out of the way before the end of this season is preferable to some, especially if it comes with a discount.
Hopefully, we’ll see another increase next season in the total number of season tickets purchased – it certainly looks like it will be an exciting one…
…and, in all likelihood, with a new synthetic pitch as well, although that has yet to be confirmed.
Looks like there should be plenty of news coming out of the club in the next few weeks!