Jersey Reds ‘Too good for Championship’

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TWO of Championship Rugby’s leading figures are calling for the RFU to make key changes which will allow the likes of Jersey Reds and Ealing Trailfinders to join the Premiership.

Nottingham head coach Craig Hammond and Hartpury chief Mark Cornwell believe the dominance of the second-tier’s top two so far this season sends a strong message to both the national governing body and Premiership officials – and that they should look at promotion and relegation very differently.

The pair have seen their sides beaten heavily by Jersey and Ealing in the Championship Cup in recent weeks and Hammond says it is up to the RFU to change its approach to allow rugby to grow.

The RFU announced in September that it will reduce the stadium capacity required for promoted sides from next season – from 10,001, to 5,000, which is in line with France’s Top 14, the URC and football’s Premier League.

However, that is only for a team’s first season in the top flight. After that, they must have funded plans for 10,001 approved, at the very least.

Hammond said: ‘If the RFU don’t allow promotion then we could be looking at next season having both Jersey and Ealing, plus Wasps and Worcester. It will be like four Premiership-quality clubs, making the Championship, as a league, almost as tough as the Premiership, especially for part-time sides like little Nottingham.

‘But we can only talk. It is up to the people at the RFU and the Premiership to make the big decisions, but I’d like to see them get a better hold of this, and how the English player-base is spread across both leagues for all of us.’

He added: ‘Ealing have a massive squad, lots of money there, a great ground with good facilities. When you fly over to Jersey, the Reds have come a long way, have top-level facilities too and great support down there on the Island.

‘Jersey and Ealing really are Premiership quality now, so it would help us all in the Championship if they did go up, and it could end this myth that the best tier-two teams can’t compete with the Premiership sides.’

Meanwhile, Cornwell is impressed with how both Jersey and Ealing have improved despite the RFU’s funding drop for Championship sides. They now receive only £288,00 in central funding a season, down from £500,000 in 2019/20.

‘We all know it’ll be between Ealing and Jersey on who goes up,’ he said.

The Cornishman added that he feels the game’s financial issues – leading to Wasps and Worcester going into administration and being automatically relegated – gives the RFU the opportunity to make key changes.

‘There’s still a step in my mind between them now and the Premiership,’ he explained. ‘You only have to watch any Prem games and everyone knows what a step it is between the leagues. I’m not saying they are there yet, but they are closing it and more ready than any before to make that final step.

‘The RFU have changed their mind on the ground capacity issue, but they need to do more. The problems at Wasps and Worcester should allow them to accept the mistakes and take their head out of the sand.

‘I would like to think they’ll be more open now otherwise it won’t make financial sense for teams like Jersey to go up. It’ll be a shame if they don’t and for the good of the game as a whole, they need to.’

Having attracted new financial backers this season Jersey Reds officials have made public their Championship title-winning vision, but they have given themselves until 2025. Talk of promotion has also been reserved, although it has but not ruled out as an option inside the next decade.

The RFU were approached for comment but a response was not received before publication.

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