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Premiership must take control of Championship

Nottingham chairman Alistair Bow fears Championship rugby will continue its downward spiral unless Premiership Rugby are handed control of the league.

Amid a backdrop of falling gates, Bow has accused the RFU of failing to deliver sufficient commercial revenue to enable beleaguered tier two clubs to survive.

Since the league’s formation in 2009, only Greene King IPA have come on board as title sponsors, yielding £400,000-a-year, while the RFU’s contribution to the Championship from their bumper TV deal with Sky Sports is a meagre £30,000 per team.

In that time, Nottingham, Plymouth, Coventry and Birmingham have hit financial trouble, while London Welsh have gone to the wall. Bow is demanding change, telling The Rugby Paper: “We don’t have anybody leading our commercial interests from the top.

“Premiership Rugby are a separate company and they are well organised. They have a commercial team led by a chief executive, but nothing like that happens with the RFU and the Championship clubs are left to their own devices. We’re not seen as a priority.

“I think (RFU professional rugby director) Nigel Melville would like to change that but unless someone takes control from the top down, nothing will happen.

“We’ve got two completely different businesses – the Championship and Premiership Rugby – which the RFU want to see working together, but we have two owners. Why?

“Where is the sense in that? There is none. If the RFU want us to work closer together, then set up some sort of formal deal and let’s have a merger.”

Bow added: “Nottingham Rugby want to grow our business but it’s hard to grow it within a commercial climate the clubs don’t have any control over.

“Unless we align ourselves with Premiership Rugby, who are dedicated to the clubs and can drive commercial deals, I seriously wonder where the Championship and English rugby is going. Should we not be doing the best for English rugby?”

Despite his concerns, Bow insists Nottingham still aspire to be a Premiership club.

He explained: “I believe there is a will within the county for us to do that and we could play Premiership games at Meadow Lane tomorrow because we still have a long-term lease there, but first we need new facilities at Lady Bay.

“We are losing money, but our strategy is to get to a break-even model and the catalyst for that will be a new 4G pitch and grandstand and hospitality facilities at Lady Bay which will enable us to generate more revenue of our own.

“We share with Nottinghamshire Cricket and have plans to develop our ground by 2019, when they host a World Cup, so it’s developing at a fast pace.”

NEALE HARVEY

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