Jersey Reds have issued a strong riposte to not only the action taken by the RFU to cut funding to the Championship for next season, but also for the manner in which clubs have been left in the dark.
Bedford Blues, Coventry and Nottingham are just some of the Championship clubs quick to condemn the RFU for driving the second tier back towards a widely part-time player base.
In slashing funds from £480,000 to £288,000, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney announced that a review had estimated the Championship could not deliver on standards to produce players befitting of the Premiership and England calibre.
Sweeney said: “We do not believe it is the primary place where Premiership and England players are discovered and developed.
“The decision we have made is connected to a wider review of strategic objectives and resource allocation.”
This despite the fact ten of England’s starting line-up which faced Scotland in the Six Nations at the weekend had experience with Championship clubs during the infancy of their professional careers.
And that has seen Mark Morgan, chairman of Jersey Reds since 2016, issue a damning view of the RFU’s communication and uncertainty.
In a statement, Morgan said: “Championship clubs have been trying for months to get clarity around funding following the end of the current funding agreement this summer. To be presented with this fait accompli when teams are already hiring for next season is immoral and irresponsible.
“There has been zero consultation, engagement, nor explanation before the announcement and no vision for the future of the Championship was provided. With Bill Sweeney’s heralded business background, this is astonishingly poor execution.
“The RFU has talked about ‘missed objectives’. I have attended every Championship meeting at Twickenham over the past 4 years but do not recall this ever being raised by RFU.
“The position the RFU has taken is disrespectful to the great work being done by Championship clubs and the army of volunteers that are involved at all levels who work to deliver a quality product and developmental opportunities for players and coaches alike.
“The lack of any indication about funding beyond the end of the 2020/21 season is a glaring omission and can only be aimed at creating further uncertainty.”
Morgan and other senior officials at the club will be discussing the matter further over the coming days.
“We only received this news at 8am yesterday (Tuesday) but have already been looking at the implications for Jersey Reds.
“A huge amount of hard work, on and off the field, over the past 10 years or more, has made us an established presence in the Championship, finishing in the top half of the table for the last four seasons.
“The club is a major generator of income for the Island and attracts significant numbers of visitors to Jersey. In just a couple of weeks several hundred Newcastle Falcons supporters are set to invade the Island for their club’s fixture here, each spending significant sums during their off-season visit.
“We have no intention of giving up on competing professionally at this level without a fight, and will be talking to all stakeholders in the coming weeks about how we can maintain the club’s position.
“Clearly a sudden and unexpected drop in income is a massive factor, and not something that we can just shrug off, but we will be seeking to adjust to the cards that have been dealt to us.”
Main photo: Sue Armes