English rugby’s Championship clubs have fired back at RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney as the war of words on how to run the game’s second tier continues.
As part of negotiations over a new Professional Game Partnership – which will determine how the sport is run nationally moving forward – the RFU have underlined their desire to alter the Championship to make it more commercially viable and investable. Sweeney this week said the league in its current guise is not sustainable.
‘What are you investing in? You’d rather take that money and invest it in other things,’ he said.
‘We’ve shown if you pour money into the existing structure of the Championship, it just doesn’t deliver. That’s not being disrespectful. It just doesn’t.’
The RFU’s desire to rebrand the Championship and create what has been called ‘Premiership 2’ could involve the creation of new franchise teams although that has not yet been ratified.
London Irish rugby club are currently in administration
Wasps also followed suit in going to the wall earlier in the year
Chief Executive of RFU - Bill Sweeney, Steve Borthwick and RFU Chairman Tom Ilube
Central funding to the Championship – the league below the Gallagher Premiership – was cut by the RFU in 2020.
Yesterday (FRI), the Championship hit back at Sweeney’s latest comments.
In a collective statement from all of its clubs, the league said: ‘Unlike the RFU, we believe the Championship under our amended proposals is a wholly investible proposition.’
Championship side Jersey followed Premiership outfits Worcester, Wasps and London Irish in going to the wall earlier this year.
As thing stand, no Championship club can be promoted to the Premiership as the top tier – now made up of 10 teams – is currently ringfenced.
‘We share the RFU’s desire to build a competitive and valuable second tier with all the ambition you need in a sporting competition,’ the Championship’s statement read.
‘That is not possible for as long as Premiership Rugby and the RFU choose to maintain the current barriers to entry which by necessity leaves the Championship as the top of the competitive pyramid. The significant underinvestment in our league over recent times – which has seen central funding cut by 75 per cent with no prospect of meaningful improvement – has left us self-reliant, self-funded and self-sustaining. This is the overall backdrop.
RFU aims to make the Championship more commercially viable and investable, suggesting that the current league structure is not sustainable
Central funding to the Championship was cut by the RFU in 2020, leading to financial challenges for the clubs, especially Worcester, Wasps and London Irish in administration
‘The RFU has now chosen to criticise our attitude to their flawed proposals which we do not believe represent a whole-game solution.
‘The Championship clubs are not interested in a league that follows a franchise or selection-based model. It (the Championship)) would be even more investible if the RFU had not cut funding levels so deeply during the most difficult period for competitive sports clubs in the modern era.
‘They have failed by their own admission to commercialise our business. Now that, at our request, we have been given those rights to exploit, we can try to build separate revenue streams.’