Rugby: RFU and Championship clubs agree five-year deal

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BILL DEMPSEY believes a new deal struck between Greene King IPA Championship clubs and the RFU will go someway to helping ease the current financial struggles plaguing second tier clubs – but the Jersey chairman says it's by no means the perfect antidote.

The RFU and the Championship clubs yesterday announced a new five-year agreement which will see an uplift in central funding, with the aim to continue the growth of the second tier.

Although no definitive value has been attributed to the increased support, the partnership – which runs until 2019/20 – will require clubs to allocate a percentage of funding to developing their facilities while in addition, the RFU will now contribute towards player medical insurance, ensuring the league continues to develop both on and off the field.

The new agreement, which will also see a rise in funding for the British & Irish Cup, will begin ahead of the 2015/16 season, replacing the final year of the current deal.

Although pleased that the RFU have agreed to increase their current £350,000 central funding, Dempsey says additional sources of income must still be sourced to make the division sustainable. 'It's middle of the road really,' said the chairman.

Cash-strapped Plymouth Albion, pictured playing against Jersey earlier this season, were on the verge of administration in January. Picture: JOHN ALLEN
Despite excellent levels of support from the local population, Bill Dempsey has previously stated that it's not easy to keep Jersey RFC solvent

'However, we still don't know the exact figure as there are probably six different areas of funding still up for discussion. Some areas are agreed, some are not, like the development fund – it's there for clubs to develop facilities but how will the projects be applied for and passed ... we still don't know. The detail is still being worked out, with funding depending on things like who pays for the referees, who pays for their insurance?

PRL currently inject £1 million into the Championship annually, which is distributed evenly among the 12 clubs. That deal has run for the last five-and-a-half years and Dempsey argues that, regardless of whether or not plans to ring-fence the top flight are implemented, the current agreement needs renewing.


'That has been the figure for the last five-and-a-half years so we expect that to go up, regardless of PRL's plans. Sixteen or 17 of the current England squad played in the Championship so that shows the value the league has in developing players ... perhaps more than the Premiership academies.

'At the end of the day though, all we can offer PRL is development of players so the talks will depend on how much they value that. The agreement between the RFU and PRL still has 15 months to run and it's unlikely that they'll discuss what happens next until after the World Cup ... we'd expect to hear from PRL after that.

'The new RFU deal needs to be incorporated into what is happening with the PRL deal to make it sustainable.'

Championship clubs are set to meet at Twickenham next Thursday, where Dempsey expects to discover the final figures.


Commenting on the announcement, RFU Chief Executive Officer Ian Ritchie said:

"We are delighted to have reached an agreement with the Greene King IPA Championship clubs, particularly one that encourages vibrant and sustainable businesses both on and off the field. The Greene King IPA Championship is a crucial part of the professional game in England and as evident by today's announcement, one that we are focused on developing and improving alongside the clubs.

"You only need to glance at the England squad to see the influence of the Greene King IPA Championship: Jack Nowell, Mako Vunipola, George Ford, Tom Youngs, Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees and so on. We are very fortunate to have such a wealth of talent in this country, and a big part of that is down to the quality of rugby on offer in the Greene King IPA Championship. With this new deal, we should see that continue to grow from strength to strength.

"I would like to thank the Greene King IPA Championship Clubs, particularly Geoff Irvine and Ian Connell, for their cooperation and tireless work in bringing this new agreement to pass. On behalf of all parties, we look forward to a bright future for the competition."

Geoff Irvine, Chairman of the Greene King IPA Championship Clubs added:

"The Greene King IPA Championship Clubs were unanimous in their agreement to the new funding deal with the RFU. Of course we would have liked more but the RFU were very professional in the negotiations and the clubs understand the demands that the Union has in terms of funding from all areas of the game. The five year deal should provide some stability and enable clubs to undertake long term planning for the future".

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