Academies to close?
Posted by: Gray_Lensman (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2020 09:15

Hidden away in the proposal to restructure the Championship was the idea that academies linked to Premiership clubs would be closed and instead there would be six regional hubs at universities with the Championship clubs providing the coaching and the Premiership having some sort of draft pick. I foresee some resistance, not least the funding.

Report in The Torygraph:

Premiership Rugby clubs are to be asked to replace their academy system with a network of six “world class regional hubs” as part of a radical plan to overhaul the development pathway in England, Telegraph Sport can reveal.
The move, praised as “the most significant innovation since the move to professionalism,” is one of the foundation stones of the new blueprint to remodel the Championship, drawn up by Ed Griffiths, the former Saracens chief executive.

Details emerged last week of the proposal to restructure the Championship, with a recommendation that the 12-team division be 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.

However it is understood that the proposed new structure would also see the 13 Premiership academies replaced by six regional centres based at universities across the country and linked to two clubs in a modelled Championship.

Premiership clubs would then be able to select the best young English talent through an American-style draft each December and give them three-year contracts.

The 76-page proposal, which has been seen by Telegraph Sport, forecasts that Premiership clubs would save between £600,000 to £900,000 by closing their academies with the Championship clubs meeting the costs of providing the coaching, strength and conditioning and medical staff at the six hubs.

Players would be guaranteed around 30 competitive games per season and after one year would be eligible for the draft system in which each Premiership club would be given four picks from a pool of 60 players.

Griffiths, who has already met with Bill Sweeney, the Rugby Football Union chief executive, and the professional rugby director, Conor O’Shea, is to make a formal presentation to the Premiership clubs next month after a series of informal discussions.

He is also exploring interest from broadcasters, sponsors and universities with the aim of establishing the new academies by the start of the 2021 season.

“This proposal tries to primarily find a purpose and a role for a sustainable Championship but what it also tries to do is to harness all the resources available to the game into a more streamlined, integrated pathway for younger players,” Griffiths told Telegraph Sport.

“The plan for the new pathway, which would remain under RFU control, would harness universities’ facilities in a hub that would include other educational establishments and crucially Championship clubs, because Championship clubs can provide game time.

“There are many failings of the current system but the main one is that the best young players in the country in the Premiership academies spend too much time holding tackle bags and the A League, which I understand is not going to take place next season, has been a pretty poor competition.

“Young players in this structure would get world-class rugby coaching in six regional academies, they would get their parallel education and training from universities and associated educational institutions and they would get their game time with the Championship clubs.

“That to me is a streamlined, integrated solution where everyone in the game is working together to provide the youngster the best opportunity.”

Player welfare is also central to the vision, which has the working title TEC – The English Championship, with a comprehensive programme outlined with “game-leading” regulations including concussion protocols, use of painkillers, rest periods and workload monitoring.

“At some point the game is going to have to get serious about protecting players,” Griffiths added. “This will go further on player welfare than any other league in the world at the moment”

Griffiths, backed unanimously at a meeting of the Championship clubs last Wednesday to explore a new arrangement, acknowledges however that persuading the clubs to give up their academies will not be an easy task.

“We have not ploughed all this money into our academy to hand it over to the Championship,” said one source.

The estimated cost of running the new Championship model, including funding player salaries and the new academies, is £15.6 million in the first year, which would require significant investment from both the RFU and Premiership Rugby on top of broadcasting and sponsorship revenues. Griffiths expects the requirement for external funding to reduce year-on-year.

“The challenge is to persuade people to change,” said Griffiths. “Change is always viewed with suspicion and ulterior motives but I genuinely think this is a win for everybody – the RFU, the Premiership clubs, the Championship and younger players.”

Re: Academies to close?
Posted by: EverOptimistic (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2020 10:07

After initial scepticism, I have to say I think this sounds like a very good idea.

Re: Academies to close?
Posted by: Gray_Lensman (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2020 10:33


This plan seems to expect the RFU and Premiership to pay for it. The RFU is cutting costs and is already reducing its funding of the Championship. If the Premiership, which has sunk significant money into the existing deeply flawed academies, is expected to fund a completely new system then it is going to expect control. And why should they then allow Championship coaches any real input?

This plan also seems to expect RFU and Premiership funding to fall and be replaced by sponsorship and broadcast income. What!!! The Championship has barely any TV coverage as it is and couldn't get a sponsor for years and I can't see Greene King extending its current deal except at reduced levels.

The only explanation I can think of is that the details of this plan are being drip-fed to us via the Telegraph and it has something else lurking in the detail. Perhaps the Premiership taking overall control of the Championship. Which would account for how it has come up with changes to promotion and relegation alongside a complete change to the academy system. Otherwise Griffiths has come up with a proposal without in anyway involving the Premiership in drawing it up. It's as if his plan was based on funding obtained from local income tax without consulting with the government.

I'm not saying that the principle isn't a good one (after all we were handicapped by an academy based solely on Bristol and Bradley Stoke in contrast to the massive catchment areas of other clubs). Well funded regional centres of excellence make a lot of sense. It's just that I struggle with the idea that the Championship is the right organisation to run them, especially as it won't be paying for it.

Re: Academies to close?
Posted by: Rich. (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2020 10:40

My queries/potential issues with this would be:

1. comments like 'He is also exploring interest from broadcasters, sponsors ' make me question
the thinking behind everything else- what Broadcasters will be interested in this? (none) and it seems they will mainly play in Championship matches and they won't be more appealing to Broadcasters just because there will be a few 'academy' players playing. And who would want to sponsor it to any great extent? Yes the Unis might like the kudos but the Prem Academies seem to be linked to Unis anyway. + Unis are going to be short of money for a long time to come

2. The current structure means the clubs have a great incentive to make it work and produce the best players they can. This plan creates a disconnect between ownership and system. So if the coaches are not doing a good job who will decide that and on what basis and will they act quickly enough to either improve the coach in question or move them out? I can see standards declining

3. If I was a young player I'd FAR rather be part of a Prem side set-up and have a few games for their 2nd team (and no doubt A team fixtures will be back on for 21/22) and even some 1st team (as happens a fair bit) than be linked to a Championship club and play occasionally for them (with players who don't really train with me or know me and who might be p'd off that I come in occasionally and turf a regular player out of the side).

4. Yes there may well be a problem with them currently playing not enough games but you don't need this wholesale change to fix that. I don't know but I suspect a lot of our Academy lads play games for other sides as well. OK playing for Dings or OId Reds not the same level as playing for a Championship side perhaps but clubs could link to Championship sides if they want (which is indeed just what Northampton and Bedford are doing)

5, Yes it currently costs the clubs but they will have to pay for the new structure as well (albeit it SHOULD be cheaper) but at least with the current structure they will be reaping the benefits of the money they have put in over the years and if (re point 2 above about ownership) they get some great future first-team players out of what they currently do then it is a case of speculate to accumulate rather than chucking money down the drain.

Re: Academies to close?
Posted by: Stopsy (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2020 11:11

Welcome to regional rugby pretty soon after if this goes ahead. Young lad, played for a local Bristol club since age of 6, all he wants to do is play for Bris, has to go to Bath University and then picked in the draft for Newcastle?

This is the RFU trying to regain control of the professional game in England.

And would you trust Edward Griffiths to do anything for the good of the game given his tenure at Saracens?

Re: Academies to close?
Posted by: gran (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2020 13:58

And bang go any reasonable career prospects except for the few that get drafted by the prem clubs at an early age. No longer will there be the same opportunities for some gnarled old forwards to earn a limited amount over 15 years, I suspect that punters have more affinity with some old crowd favourite than with some callow youth who disappears at season's end.

Re: Academies to close?
Posted by: Nailsea Rifles (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2020 15:11

Sadly this a “development” Within the professional era and follows the regional or provincial structure. The junior clubs will feed into this structure as and when players are identified to fill the spaces. Bristol did this for years taking the quality talent from combination clubs into their development structure and united set ups which proved locally how strong the combination set up was. See Pete Stiff or Wayne Hone as examples, there are many more. Clubs could cope with this as they had a strong player base but are not in the same position as they were decades ago. The gulf in finances between the league structures will widen and there will be less trickling down to grass roots levels. The junior clubs will still get coaching support from senior players as part of their own community integration but it is a fact of professional life, sponsorship by way of of businesses and TV deals want something back. Sadly there will be quality players who are overlooked because they are not from the right groups of junior clubs or have the wrong affiliations. At junior level the rule changes and leagues/merit tables were not positive and we’re a contributory factor in junior clubs losing players because Of carrying so many replacements per game. Teams who had four or five sides reduced to two or three as a result. The aim should be getting more players in at a junior level to expand and strengthen junior levels, this in turn would give a bigger pool of players for consideration for representational levels. Senior rugby is a representational level as Virtually all players progress through junior rugby at some stage, the exceptions are through public school or sporting scholarships.

Re: Academies to close?
Posted by: Graham_U (IP Logged)
Date: 06 August, 2020 10:26

I think it is a reasonable compromise. Unless things have changed, Prem clubs get something like a £1M pa to run an RFU academy, so if that funding is removed it provides a significant budget. If done properly the regional academy set up can be far more even than the current set up. It doesn't stop recruitment direct from lower clubs for the missing talents. It's supports the championship clubs that are despite, and reflects the economic realities of smaller Prem squads and budgets for most teams, and few Pro players in future.

I wonder if the player will be restricted to EQP in a more formal way than today's academy given the funding model? It will also means a more equal distribution of the talent out of the academy between the club's. Given the budget cuts that the majority need to survive, I could see a majority of Prem clubs supporting this as better value for money. Indeed if things remain, would the academies budgets be cut by these clubs just to survive?

Clearly remaining with the current situation ignores all that has been learnt over the last few months, retaining all the problems and failures. I see this as following the administration regional structures rather than a move to regional rugby. The Prem is still far too dominant for that.


C'mon Bris,,file=399.jpg

Stand out in a crowd, wear the Hoops!

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