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RFU’s ‘draconian’ cuts stun Jersey Reds

Rugby | Published:

JERSEY REDS officials have held talks with players and staff amid concerns that Championship rugby as we know it could be destroyed.

Jersey Reds chairman Mark Morgan has been heavily critical of the RFU and their chief executive Bill Sweeney, following drastic cuts to central funding Picture: ROB CURRIE

Club chairman Mark Morgan was among those left in shock following a surprise move by the Rugby Football Union to slash central funding from next season, seemingly without any consultation with second-tier representatives.

Annual support from the national governing body will fall by 40% to £288,000 per club this summer, while financial input from Premiership Rugby – currently totalling £1.7m – will halve next term and cease completely from 2021/22.

In a damning review of the Championship’s value to English rugby, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney says elevated post-World Cup investment since 2016 has not reaped enough return and argues that the league is not a strong-enough breeding ground for future internationals. He has also said that ‘objectives and deliverables’ have not been met.

‘We had an idea something was coming but we had no idea it was going to be quite so draconian,’ Morgan explained. ‘Honestly, I’m just confused and very angry.

‘I’m particularly confused about the key performance indicators [KPIs], which were brought out of nowhere. I’ve been to every RFU Championship meeting for the last four years and there has never been a mention of this, ever. In any business I’ve been involved in, if you have KPIs it’s something you measure monthly, quarterly, annually.’

Sweeney insists the cut is not ring-fencing in disguise and that the door to the Premiership is still open, although many Championship executives, including Morgan, say they are keeping their eyes clear of wool.

Premiership hopefuls must meet strict minimum standards – while also bridging a spending gap of approximately £6million – and proposals to abolish promotion and relegation have been backed by many high-ranking figures in recent seasons.

Morgan added: ‘I think that it’s absolutely that [veiled ring-fencing].

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‘We all know what the current funding situation is and what the gap is and the last thing you do if you don’t want ring-fencing is cut the funding further. Whether it’s deliberate or not, it’s certainly a step towards that.’

Morgan has pledged to fight to retain Jersey’s professional status and says backroom roles at St Peter are not currently under threat. However, he admits that adjustments will need to be made with regards to player recruitment.

‘We run on skeleton staff as it is and have just enough to do what we want to do. At this point they’re fine,’ he said.

‘What it will impact more is the number of players we can hire each season – there might need to be a trim – and also the experience level of the lads coming in. More experience means more cost, so it will be a balancing act.

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‘We will be working with our stakeholders to see what additional help we can find from them and if we can get half of our ideas to work we will be able to close the gap.’

The Reds sold assets amounting to £1.5million in 2016 to keep the club afloat, although they later reclaimed ownership with the help of a ten-year loan from a syndicate with connections to the club.

The RFU has urged Championship clubs to continue working towards becoming financially sustainable as they record average annual losses of £260,000. Last year, Premiership clubs registered an average deficit of £3.7million.

Jason Fox

By Jason Fox
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