The RFU’s announcement – Get Up, Stand Up, Don’t Give Up The Fight…

Preacher man, don’t tell me
Heaven is under the earth
I know you don’t know
What life is really worth
It’s not all that glitters is gold
Half the story has never been told
And now you see the light
You stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight!

Bob Marley and the Wailers – Get Up Stand Up

The contrast between the actions of Coventry Rugby this week and those of the RFU couldn’t be any more polarised.

Just as Championship side Coventry were giving their players the chance to unwind, concerned with their well-being and anxious to ensure they were getting some much needed respite from the physicality of the last 6 weeks…

…so the RFU were busy preparing to stab them in the back…

…or not even in the back, given they have been so open about their contempt for the second tier of English rugby.

It’s the difference between an employer that cares and one that doesn’t give a damn.

There’s nothing in the RFU’s statement that makes reference to safeguarding welfare of players in the Championship or those connected to the game, just a lack of ‘return on the investment’.

Such utilitarian approaches to funding belong to the workhouses of Victorian England, not to the 21st century. Thomas Gradgrind and Ebenezer Scrooge would be rubbing their hands in glee…

It’s a despicable decision on the part of the RFU.

And coincidentally there are 57 synonyms for the word ‘despicable’ in my online Thesaurus of choice, all of which seem apt ways to describe the decision made by  Will Carling’s ’57 old farts’ as was.

The number may well have change, but the sentiment hasn’t.

Be my guest, take your pick. All of them apply:

Contemptible, hateful, detestable, reprehensible, abhorrent, abominable, loathsome, awful, heinous, beyond the pale, odious, execrable, repellent, repugnant, repulsive, revolting, disgusting, horrible, horrid, horrifying, obnoxious, nauseating, offensive, distasteful, beneath contempt, vile, base, low, mean, abject, shameful, degrading, ignominious, cheap, shabby, miserable, wretched, sorry, scurvy, infamous, villainous, ignoble, disreputable, discreditable, unworthy, unscrupulous, unprincipled, unsavoury, dirty, filthy, dirty, rotten, low-down, no-good, beastly, lousy, caitiff…

Reaction to the news that the RFU is going to slash its funding to Championship clubs by well over 50%  (Jon Sharp mentioned the figure as being as high as £350,000 on last night’s CWR programme) has been overwhelmingly one of shock and abhorrence, with anger directed at the governing body not just for the size of the cut but also the timing.

And with further reductions likely in 2021/21 when the PRL could well reduce their funding levels, things are likely to get worse before they getter better.

Or just worse.

Coming as it does three quarters of the way through this current season, and at a time when many clubs have started to recruit for next season, means that plans lie in tatters.

And it’s not only the timing – according to JS there has been no consultation with clubs over this, with a planned meeting in January cancelled and the chairmen of the Championship clubs only being notified by email on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday 11th February or Black Tuesday as it should be known from hereon in.

Uncertainty about next season means that players, coaches and backroom staff across the league have been left worrying about their futures, with projects planned by clubs to improve their facilities, both for the players and for local communities, put on hold.

I accept that I’ve been a little critical of Cov’s unwillingness at times to communicate promptly with its supporters, but yesterday’s joint statement (with Cornish Pirates) following the RFU’s announcement and then Jon Sharp’s appearance on Alec Blackman’s rugby slot on CWR have done much to lessen some of the fears of Cov supporters.

Lessen the fears for sure, but certainly not the anger.

The club’s prompt response was  exactly what was needed and, in the aftermath of the RFU’s bombshell, its actions should be roundly applauded. Even though a reduction in funding was expected, it was nothing like the £350,000 JS quoted yesterday. He himself suggested a cut in the region of ‘just’ £100,000 was anticipated, so for the club to experience a shortfall of this magnitude is going to be massive.

For some clubs, as Jon Sharp himself said, it will mean a desire to free themselves from the Championship once and for all and a return to National One. He even suggested we might see a club go bust as a result.

London Scottish have already announced that they will go part-time next season and I’m sure that others will follow. With Coventry Rugby’s financial situation faring better than most, Jon Sharp has already confirmed that all players on 2 or 3 year contracts will have them honoured and that having fought so long for the club to be fully professional, he has no intention of reverting back to a semi-professional status even with the £350,000 hit from the RFU.

So, worrying as the current situation is for Cov,  it appears to be a good deal worse for many other Championship clubs. The Cov Chairman revealed that DoR Rowland Winter apparently had over 100 players and coaches from Championship clubs contact him in the previous 24 hours prior to the CWR broadcast.

A 100!

This just serves to illustrate the massive level of concern about both the potential reduction in salaries and/or redundancies elsewhere, concern that suggests players are already being put under huge pressure even before the cull has started.

And as a result, players’ health and well being is bound to suffer.

The more you think about it, the more despicable the timing of this announcement is.

Cov’s decision to replace the grass of last season with an artificial surface seems an even better one in the light of this week’s developments. Coventry’s funding streams are such that they now have a degree of flexibility that previously just didn’t exist. The long-term planning that Jon Sharp and the Board have put into place over many years now means that we are in far better able to cope with anything the RFU is likely to throw at us in the coming seasons.

Just how the likes of Ampthill, Bedford, Nottingham and Jersey will fare is far less certain.

Even so, what it does mean for Cov is that one or two of the longer term projects to improve the ground facilities that were in the pipeline will now have to be put on hold – the building of the Cowshed for one. Jon Sharp has made it his person goal to leave a legacy behind for both the club and the wider Coventry community, so a decision from the RFU of this magnitude must be a real sickener.

Don’t just spare the club a thought, spare one for  JS, too.

Recruitment will have to be rethought now that budgets have been so reduced, but at least it looks like we won’t be losing players other than those whose contracts run out this season and who will too expensive to re-sign.

Interestingly, one of the reasons cited for the reduction in RFU funding to the Championship is that:

…(the RFU) do not believe it is the primary place where Premiership and England players are discovered and developed.

Guess what?

Headlines on the rugby section of the BBC Sport website today…’Wilco Louw: Harlequins sign South Africa international prop ahead of next season’.

Not altogether indicative of the Premiership’s desire to give home grown talent a chance, then?

Jon Sharp rightly made the point that the Championship is indeed a pathway into the Premiership for young aspiring talent, indicating that 47% of players currently at Premiership clubs have played in the Championship. Take away the plethora of oversees recruits and I imagine you’re left with a smaller percentage of players coming through the Premiership Academies.

Not only that, the Championship also allows for players to extend their careers in the game, whilst also ensuring they have additional time to build links and establish contacts for when they do eventually hang up their boots – an element of player welfare that JS rightly suggests has been overlooked by the RFU.

In fact the RFU’s statement is full of contradictions. Again, on yesterday’s CWR programme JS stated that RFU was very much against the reliance of Championship clubs on ‘sugar daddies’ to buy their way into the top tiers of English rugby.

However, another reason cited by the RFU for the reduction in central funding is:

…the difference in the levels of funding between the current agreement and  our new commitment will not be the deciding factor for clubs with aspirations for promotion and will always require additional investment.

…exactly what the likes of Coventry, Pirates and Ealing have done through attracting generous benefactors selflessly attuned to the needs of the clubs and the local communities. And let’s not forget to mention Exeter, Worcester and Newcastle, too.

The RFU’s actions are abhorrent and one can only hope that Jon Sharp and his fellow chairmen can come up with an alternative structure to the Championship as it now stands, one in which they own the league themselves and can negotiate directly with sponsors, with little or no reliance on the RFU, a hope he referred to in his discussions with Alec Blackman.

For me, the lure of the Premiership is fast losing its appeal now; the actions of the RFU, together with those of the PRL, make it a far less attractive proposition than it was a few months ago.

There has been some talk of Cov investigating the possibility of linking up with  the Pro-14 or more recently of breaking away from the RFU. Right now, both seem preferable to continuing as we are.

The Premiership is now ring-fenced to all intents and purposes (surely Saracens won’t be given the full parachute payment in the light of the cuts other clubs are having to endure – that would be a step too far for me), so let’s make the most of what we have and develop a product that is innovative and marketable.

Cov’s response to the RFU’s actions, both through its Chairman and its supporters, has shown that once again adversity is bringing everyone together. I do think a show of strength from all clubs in the Championship over the next few rounds of games is important.

What form that should take is best left to others with far more pragmatic minds than mine, but if the RFU won’t listen, it needs to be made to.

I’ve been really impressed, and heartened, by what Jon Sharp has had to say thus far. His anger and frustration is very much shared by Cov supporters.

Together we can make a difference.

We have to.

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

Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight!
Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight!
Don’t give up the fight
Don’t give up the fight

Although originally written about after witnessing the conditions the poor faced in Haiti, Bob Marley’s song has now become an anthem for protest…

The joint announcement from Pirates and Cov ends ‘We are not going to go away quietly’.

Nor too must we, the supporters.

z

Author: Tim

18 thoughts on “The RFU’s announcement – Get Up, Stand Up, Don’t Give Up The Fight…

  1. Hope you’re having a great time in Vietnam! If everyone took the same actions as you, then the RFU would certainly feel the heat. Good point about National One, I ought to cheack to see if they’ve had notice of a reduction in funding – although I rather think the Championship situation is more about ringfencing by stealth…?

  2. Viewing this from a distance (Vietnam) my action will be as follows. Continue to support Cov and keep buying a season ticket, and contribute to any Supporters Club scheme to help the club. I will also tell Sale (who I have also held a season ticket with) that I will cease my support for the elitist Premiership. I will not buy BT Sport or Sky Rugby, cease to watch Channel 5 highlights and tell them all why by every means possible. Ie I will vote with my money not to support anything associated with the RFU. And don’t forget National One in all of this…. there are many clubs there that could support a breakaway.

  3. Hi Phil. Yes, I’m rather afraid that this will all die a death in a few weeks time and nothing will have changed. However loud the voices on Twitter at the moment. Pockets of anger spread thinly will have next to no effect – it will need clubs to set aside their differences and work together to make a real difference.

  4. Sadly Sam, I’m not the right one to ask as my knowledge of rugby outside of Cov is so limited …perhaps there is someone who follows the blog who is in a position to explain how representation should be made…?

  5. So who can voice these concerns to (that we think would be properly represented)? Who are the Warks Council RFU members through whom we could/should/will make representation (and do we trust them to represent our interests as opposed to their own?

  6. Cool.

    Just would also call on Cov fans to give respect to the Carniege players on Saturday.
    If any squad of players have been through the mill recently its this lot.

    I do not want to sound arrogant in any of the ways English rugby supporters are portrayed…but our home form is good etc.

    Most of us who have played at any level have at some point been in a losing team and its one of the overiding principles of rugby that you do not give up, you play to the best of your ability and uphold the spirit and culture of the game.

    I would like Cov to build they’re points difference up a bit though.

  7. Perfect! That’s going to appear in the blog at some point. It fits brilliantly with what’s happening.

  8. Hey Tim

    Well if your going there with Queen there is one stand out:

    You suck my blood like a leech
    You break the law and you preach
    Screw my brain till it hurts
    You’ve taken all my money
    And you want more
    Misguided old mule with your pig headed rules
    With your narrow minded cronies
    Who are fools of the first division
    Death on two legs
    You’re tearing me apart
    Death on two legs
    You’ve never had a heart of your own
    Kill joy bad guy big talking small fry
    You’re just an old barrow boy
    Have you found a new toy to replace me?
    Can you face me?
    But now you can kiss my ass goodbye
    Feel good are you satisfied?
    Do you feel like suicide?
    (I think you should)
    Is your conscience all right
    Does it plague you at night?
    Do you feel good feel good?
    You talk like a big business tycoon
    You’re just a hot air balloon

    So no one gives you a damn
    You’re just…

  9. Brilliant!

    or even Queen’s:
    I want to break free
    I want to break free
    I want to break free from your lies
    You’re so self satisfied I don’t need you
    I’ve got to break free
    God knows, God knows I want to break free

  10. Hi Phil – I’ve just written something similar to Trevor below – the RFU are too far removed from those of us who really care in the second tier of English rugby for any protests to make a difference. If change is to come then it has to be from within and that means current Premiership players/internationals and coaches taking a stand and that’s not likely to happen. The more folk like you who refuse to line the pockets of the RFU anymore though the buying of official merchandise, international tickets etc, the better but I’m guessing that’s not going to make the kind of difference needed to bring change at the top. Hopefully, the Chairman of the Champ sides will come up with something that will – right now, I’m all for a break from the RFU and the formation of an independent league, whatever that might look like. I have been so impressed with JS and the Chairmen of Pirates and Notts too. Early days, but this might bring things to a head – it’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure.

  11. Too easy to suggest Twisted Sister – were not gonna take it? How about Paul McCartneys Frog Chorus? Giving away a bit about my musical taste if I also suggest the 2 Judas Preist “Classic” call and response sing alongs Take on the World and United.

    Weve gottta hold on to what weve got.
    Doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.
    Weve got each other, and thats enough for errr…….Rugby.

    We’ll give it a shot.

    Wohhhh weve got half the dough
    Wohhhh ohhh but we’ll still put on a show.
    Take my hand and we’ll make it I swear
    Wohhh Ohhh its not f ing fair!

  12. Hi Trevor – definitely is time for them to go, although whether the rugby loving public can put enough pressure on them to do so is another matter. Certainly there current actions seem to be angering those higher up in the game – and that’s where the pressure also needs to come from. Will be interesting to see how this pans out – sadly, I think there’ll be a lot of noise for a week or two and then it will all peter out. I hope I’m wrong!

  13. I’m definitely happy now to distance myself from all things Premiership; I’ve not got Sky so haven’t watched any games really so distancing myself further is no great loss. I think they’ll be many like you prepared to dig into their pockets to support the Cowshed project, I’m sure it’s something the CRSC will be pondering even now.
    Unfortunately, Cov news isn’t a seller for his newspaper, whereas Wasps is – I remember him telling me that when I had a pop at him about the bias in a Cov article that centre purely on the Wasps drs. If he’s blocked you then that seems extreme but it would be wrong for me to comment on that here really. He has to appease his editors, although the coverage of a resurgent Cov seems scant these days to say the least, although living outside of Cov I’m kind of used to that.

  14. Hi Richy…many thanks for your kind comments! There is such a wave of feeling in support of the Championship on social media at the moment so I’m heartened in a way, but how that can be turned into a campaign to put pressure on the RFU is unclear. It will probably need the clubs to unite supporters and bring them together in some way – as for songs, I guess the RFU will be singing the old Strawbs classic,’You Can’t Get Me I’m Part of the Union’ (in unison ;))

  15. I really don’t think that the RFU have estimated the amount of pure angst that they will receive from this, but i do believe that they think “make the announcement, keep our heads down and it will all blow over” and reading some of the pure nonsense on some of the social media sites does make me want to openly weep. “what benefit does the championship bring” ” a few men and a dog watching a game”, ” a place for no hopers and has beens to get their beer money” shows the contempt which many follower’s of the Prem view the championship. One eyed blinkerd viewing indeed.
    My personal resolve will be never to put one more penny into the coffers of the RFU, and to back this up, being in somewhat fortunate circumstances i will not travel to watch the Lions play in South Africa with Lions Rugby travel who to all intense and purposes are England rugby travel and owned by the RFU. I will go with one of the independent companies, my money, my choice, nothing to the RFU.
    On that topic i will no longer purchase any England merchandise or attend any England games, it may have no impact on the overall scheme of things but for me it is all about principle, some thing the RFU have completely lost.
    Finally how do we take this forward, how do we keep this at the forefront of Rugby news, how do we ensure that the emotion is not lost and the fight continues, that is the main and fundamental subject,

  16. I hope a huge petition to sack the RFU board ,might just shift them,they might waltz around wearing asbestos jackets and trousers,but that does not mean they are fireproof.Might be time for them to go.stop their salaries overnight see how they feel about that..Sure they will say thats unfair!
    I also agree with Alan above Cov Tel coverage of Cov scrimp to non existent,similar to the RFU abysmal behaviour

  17. Well I have been cautious about what benefits the Prem would bring v what we might lose. Better to enjoy what you have got than hanker after gold.

    Do I really what to be part of an RFU Prem cartel? I am questioning, do I want to support the England team?

    Some Prem team fans seem oblivious to how these cuts will affect their current players…with a pathway down, coaching opportunities etc., Potentially no full time rugby outside the Prem. That also afftects players going up. For instance Cov Rugby already unable to support the talents of Ben Palmer. Meagre full time wage v part time earnings and a teachers salary

    The fact the withdrawl of funding has not been tapered and just cut off over two years is draconian.

    I have no appetite for the England team now due to the mismanagement within in the RFU and its disregard for the national game over all.

    My focus is now fully on Coventry Rugby. I will gladly contribute some of my savings to ensure the Cowshed project goes ahead. Jon Sharp has backed this club, the fans and the local community that is Coventry. Its is time the fans now back him even if we have to dig into our pockets.

    As always the Coventry Telegraph has given no coverage to our plight favouring Wasps, with a minute by minute timeline on Dai Young. Bobby Bridge originally said he was awaiting a club statement. I said there was a story due to statements from London Scottish, Nottingham and Doncaster. Later Cov made a joint statement with Pirates. With Jon Sharp appearing on BBC CW sports Rugby Show I contacted Bridge to say he had missed a scoop where Alec Blackman hadn’t. His response was “Don’t tell me how to do my job”. I tried to respond further in a rational way and found I was blocked from doing so. 24 hours later he still hasnt produced an article.

    I was disapointed but not suprised. It is obviously not just the RFU that is divisive, it is a disease that runs across the upper echelons of our game; those that think they are entitled v those that just have rugby at their heart.

  18. Absolutely excellent blog Tim. My thoughts exactly.
    You correctly point out the farce of the rfu’s statement that the Championship does not function to supply elite level players. We do – but prem clubs would like their academies to have some more money.
    All Championship English Rugby supporters have to think and communicate on how best to protest…. but not at the cost of not supporting the England Rugby Team on the pitch.
    Anybody got any interesting song ideas for Saturday v Carnegie? I will be in gin wagon corner.

Any thoughts:

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