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Top agent calls for RFU to address Tier Two welfare

Ben HooperThe supply line of Championship players to the Premiership will dry up unless England’s second tier undergoes a major overhaul, a leading agent has warned.

Marc Baldrey, director of Bold Sports Management in Warwickshire, believes the league’s ailing finances, allied to the reluctance of clubs to tackle issues relating to standard contracts, medical cover and salaries, is making it harder for players to remain full-time.

In turn, he fears clubs will continue to cut costs and that many will revert to part-time status unless the RFU addresses the way it manages England’s second tier.

Nottingham prop Ben Hooper, above, and ex-Rotherham centre Jordan Davies have both gone public in their criticism of the Championship, with Davies particularly outspoken after his contract was terminated early by the Yorkshire outfit in April.

Baldrey reckons their complaints are the tip of an iceberg, telling The Rugby Paper: “Someone needs to take the Championship by the scruff of the neck. There is so little security now that the chances of finding the next Dave Ward or Matt Hopper are diminishing.

“Those success stories will dwindle unless something is done about the whole Championship picture.

“The main problem is there aren’t any general rules that all Championship clubs have to adhere by. In the Premiership there are standardised contracts, but in the Championship every club has a different contract and they’re allowed to put in different clauses.

“There are different timeframes, different inclusions in what they offer as private medical care and some salaries are frighteningly low – so little money is offered to some middle-bracket players that they’d struggle to put food on the table.

“If the RFU are investing more money in the Championship, albeit not a huge amount, why are they not just doing the basics by saying, ‘These are the rules of the business and if you want to be part of our league, that’s what you have to adhere to?’.

“Ultimately, it would create a platform by which clubs know what they have to do to survive in the league. If they can’t, then they must cut their cloth accordingly and go part-time in a lower league.”

To date, just 11 of last season’s tier two players have signed for Premiership clubs, including Mark Flanagan (Bedford to Saracens), Jack Walker (Yorkshire Carnegie to Bath), Guy Armitage (London Welsh to Wasps) and Dan Mugford (Nottingham to Sale).

Baldrey said: “In previous years it’s been between 15 and 25 players but that figure’s getting lower.

“£25,000 contracts are getting harder to come by at a lot of Championship clubs and the league’s getting much worse off from an investment point of view.

“From a player development and coaching perspective I cannot see where the league is heading.

“Premiership clubs are getting increased funding and media attention and enjoying huge growth, but the Championship is falling further and further behind.”

NEALE HARVEY

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