Two Conference Heartland Championship?
Posted by: Gray_Lensman (IP Logged)
Date: 23 July, 2020 10:20

Apparently Ed Griffiths is presenting a new format for the Championship based on two conferences.

It seems the proposal includes promotion to the Premiership based on "“It is a complicated mechanism but clubs will be judged according to performance on the field, crowd figures, stadium and training ground, infrastructure and financial resources. If a club is promoted by that mechanism, they will operate off a level playing field when they get to the Premiership"


The Torygraph has a slightly more 'conservative (!) take:

Former Saracens chief executive to present proposals for radical restructuring of Championship

Edward Griffiths will present a radical remodelling of the Championship to the Rugby Football Union on Thursday that will include the stipulation that contracted players must also have a secondary activity, be it employment, education or apprentice-style training.

Griffiths, the former Saracens chief executive who on Wednesday was mandated by Championship clubs to present the plan, will also recommend that the 12-team division is split into into a northern and southern conference, with promotion to the Premiership based on agreed criteria between the leagues rather than a first-past-the-post format.

The meeting at Twickenham with RFU chief executive, Bill Sweeney, and Director of Performance rugby, Conor O’Shea, is envisaged to be the start of a consultation process lasting for six to eight weeks before a blueprint is agreed for the 2021-22 season. There is also provision for a National Cup, some clubs will opt to train during the day and others in the evening. Welfare and nurturing are top of the agenda.

Nine Championship representatives, plus two from Jersey Reds and Cornish Pirates on conference call, attended the three and a half hour meeting at Harpenden RFC on Wednesday, in which they agreed on the core principles of the 76-page document. Griffiths has put it together over the last four months, working with Nick Johnston of Coventry Rugby and Nottingham’s Steve Smith. The report was sent to the clubs a fortnight ago. Griffiths’ involvement was triggered by a drastic reduction in their funding from the RFU in early February.

Sweeney initially announced that future distribution of central funds would see almost a 50% cut from £534,000 a year per club, a figure that was revised after uproar from the clubs by the RFU agreeing to stagger cuts over the next couple of seasons with the initial reduction pegged at £135,000pa.

Several clubs feared for their future as a result and anticipated the need for widespread job losses. Griffiths was tasked with carrying out a root-and-branch review.

“The clear message in the post Covid-19 world is that everyone has to live within their means,” said Griffiths who insists that the talks are about exploring all options within his presented framework and that initial fears of a Championship breakaway from the RFU is ‘100% wide of the mark.’

“We want to work with the RFU, the Premiership clubs and all stakeholders. In the 25 years since the game went professional too much energy has been wasted on fighting. There has been too much antagonism. This is about all aiming in to get in the same boat and row forward together. We also need to get away from the model whereby a club is dependent solely on one benefactor to keep things going. The league needs to be viable and sustainable. Commercial rights and monies will be pooled and shared. There will be an element of promotion and relegation so as to maintain some sort of ladder.”

The clear aim is to maximise the advantage that English rugby has over many other countries and that is numbers playing the game. It appears that rugby will only be one part of a player’s portfolio, an acknowledgement that this tier of rugby needs a more holistic approach with an emphasis on fewer games and better player welfare provision.

“The game can’t keep hammering players and creating issues that will only present themselves in 20 years’ time,” said Griffiths. “We need a pathway for these players, to use the universities’ set-up as well. We have an idea of our preferred model but we are open to revision of these ideas as well. Our clubs have a diverse range of resources as well as ambitions. There is overwhelming support for our core principles, a desire to nurture all rugby staff, to look after the players and to drive standards.”

Saracens did not take part in the gathering as they are a Premier Rugby Ltd shareholder.

Re: Two Conference Heartland Championship?
Posted by: Rich. (IP Logged)
Date: 23 July, 2020 11:40

Cheers. Seems interesting and a promotion model that Steve Lansdown would seem to support based on his interview on that BBC podcast a number of weeks ago - so not pulling up the drawbridge but (a bit like they do in Rugby League I think) having certain criteria that teams from below the Premiership would need to to meet in order to be considered for promotion.

What is particularly interesting here, and will be key, is that it appears all of the championship clubs are therefore in favour of no automatic promotion relegation to the Premiership.

no doubt as part of any discussions there will be a relaxation of the part-time bit so that academy and other players from Premiership clubs can play in the championship. Despite the financial problems the Premiership clubs are experiencing I think they would be happy to put their hands in their pockets to help out with a proposal like this.

Re: Two Conference Heartland Championship?
Posted by: TimothyQ (IP Logged)
Date: 23 July, 2020 11:51

It sounds like a very sensible route forward. A semi-professional league linked to the elite university game could present a fantastic pathway into elite rugby and allow the clubs to be viable without depending on a benefactor or the RFU. If a local person wants to invest in the club or if the RFU want to provide grants, then this can be used for investment in facilities rather than paying the bills day to day.

I remain an enthusiastic supporter of promotion and relegation, but this ‘boom and bust’ cycle for aspirant clubs needs to be replaced with something better.

Re: Two Conference Heartland Championship?
Posted by: Prop Joe (IP Logged)
Date: 23 July, 2020 12:16

Seems sensible but it still remains that there are 13 viable premiership clubs in the country and each year one of these teams will be in the Championship and probably coasting to promotion to be replaced by another team who will do the same next year, and so on (although I must admit Bristol made a pigs ear of this scenario for various reasons). If this format is to go along with an expanded premiership to either 13 with at least 2 or 3 seasons of no relegation or 14 with possible promotion/relegation each season then I can see it working. Then this would genuinely allow an Ealing or Pirates etc. to have a realistic chance of developing into a Premiership standard club.

Re: Two Conference Heartland Championship?
Posted by: Gray_Lensman (IP Logged)
Date: 23 July, 2020 12:40

IF you remove a relatively small number of wealthy individuals then there probably are no 'viable' Premiership or even Championship sides as currently constituted.

The Championship proposal essentially formalises a move to semi-pro status for every club and it's hard to argue with that.

The idea that there should be multiple criteria for promotion to the Premiership has some merit, but it implies that when $aracen$ are promoted back to the Premiership there will be no relegation unless a Championship club has somehow managed to meet all of the as yet undefined criteria by the end of the 21/22 season. I don't have any particular issue with a 13 team league because it gives free weekends and we are supposed to be concerned about player welfare. Promotion, on the other hand, does not automatically imply relegation.

Of course, this all supposes the Premiership have been consulted and I can practically guarantee that it has not.

Re: Two Conference Heartland Championship?
Posted by: Rich. (IP Logged)
Date: 23 July, 2020 13:02

A 13 team league doesn't give a free weekend as such though - what it does is add two extra games for each club - which all being equal increases player workload.

Re: Two Conference Heartland Championship?
Posted by: AlexInSouthville (IP Logged)
Date: 23 July, 2020 14:00

This does seem sensible.

It's odd to see him say that “The clear message in the post Covid-19 world is that everyone has to live within their means" - it's weird that it took a global pandemic to make English club rugby realise how insane and risky their funding model has been.

Some of the articles written in the past by Championship players have been horrifying.... there is, and clearly never was, anywhere near enough money for it to be a fully professional league with fair compensation.

Then last month, Greg Bateman (Tigers prop and player rep) said "Your middle-of-the-road squad player isn’t going to be on six figures" - which seems a bizarre observation/complaint. Whilst its a bloody hard and short career, the sport of rugby is relatively niche and small beans financially..... of course employees of middling ability aren't going to be earning over £100kpa. There are very few industries where that IS the case.

Re: Two Conference Heartland Championship?
Posted by: Rich. (IP Logged)
Date: 23 July, 2020 14:57

But what was the context in which Bateman said "Your middle-of-the-road squad player isn’t going to be on six figures" Alex? - if he was talking in the context of players being asked to take a 25% salary cut then he may have been in highlighting the fact that many squad players won't have a particularly high salary (when you take into account how short their career in rugby is) and therefore a 25% cut to them is far more significant than it might appear to some looking from outside.

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