Ealing Trailfinders owner Mike Gooley says he would have no problem with Premiership Rugby plans for a promotion/relegation play-off – if the funding gap is narrowed.
Premiership Rugby hope proposals for a 13-team top-flight from season 2020/21 will be ratified next month, along with their desire for a play-off between the side finishing first in the Championship and the bottom placed team in the Premiership.
They believe that is the right way forward and Gooley, who has pumped around £25m of his personal fortune into taking Trailfinders from the amateur leagues to second in the Championship while building serious infrastructure at Vallis Way, agrees.
However, the West London-based travel magnet says he would support such a move only if funding for the promoted side, or a side staying down, is significantly improved.
Gooley told The Rugby Paper: “There is much to be said for a top of the Championship, bottom of the Premiership play-off.
“It guarantees a minimum standard for Premiership teams and preserves the essential spirit of competition, together with the opportunity for deserving teams to break into Premiership – as Exeter did not so long ago.
“Coming at the end of the season, it would validate and invigorate competition at the bottom of Premiership, thus avoiding ‘dead rubbers’ that no one wants to watch. However, the fairness of funding needs to be balanced up to proceed.
“With additional money from CVC, central funding for Premiership clubs next year is going up to between £8m-£10m per year. Our central funding from the RFU in tier two is currently around £540,000 and we are battling hard to keep that.
“The Premiership currently pays over £2m in a parachute payment to the relegated side so if we got to the play-off but lost to the Premiership team, then we should get that payment of over £2m as a fair prize for finishing top of the league.
“That way we would have a chance to keep building. Equally, if we were to win a play-off the funding gap, once reaching the top-flight, needs to close.
“It is not fair for a promoted side to be treated as second-class citizens when they’ve worked hard, developed and earned the right to be in the Premiership.”
Gooley also believes Championship clubs like Jersey, Cornish Pirates and Trailfinders deserve tangible reward for pushing players through to the top-flight.
He added: “The Championship clubs develop so much of the talent that goes into the Premiership but get little or no financial recognition. Transfer fees should be introduced that reward this important player development, even at the end of a contract.
“At the moment it’s all one way: we develop the player, he goes to the Premiership and we get nothing in return. Morally, that simply is not right.”
It’s crunch time as the Premiership season draws to a close – tune into BT Sport for the culmination of the 2018/19 campaign.
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