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Exclusive: Yorkshire Carnegie disband academy as RFU pull funding support

Yorkshire Carnegie

RUGBY UNION in England’s biggest county took another hit on Monday with the news that Yorkshire Carnegie’s RFU licensed academy has been disbanded.

Seven members of staff and three senior academy players were called into Headingley on Monday and made redundant.

Carnegie’s academy operated on shoestring budget last season as the club could not afford to meet their £200,000 obligation, leaving the RFU to fund the project.

The RFU contribute up to £350,000 per academy and had expected to share the financial burden in Yorkshire with Leeds Beckett University going forward.

However, Leeds Beckett pulled out of the deal in March due to the financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The RFU have since announced they are making stringent cutbacks of their own and the Yorkshire academy and its staff and players have paid the price with their jobs.

Academy manager Ben Lazenby has worked tirelessly to keep the programme on track, despite having had one hand tied behind his back, and even last season five Carnegie academy players made it into the England U17 preliminary training camp.

Several academy players stood up to be counted for Yorkshire Carnegie in the Championship, while Joe Carpenter and Ben Carlisle have earned themselves moves to Sale Sharks and scrum-half Theo Smurden is attracting the attention of London Irish.

The news of the Yorkshire academy’s demise will come as a bitter disappointment to many in the game, not least former England head coach Stuart Lancaster.

Lancaster ran the academy in an era where it produced a bucket load of talent before joining the RFU, and his son Daniel has also come through the system.

TRP sources say there is still a strong desire to have an academy in Yorkshire, but it is hard to see how that will happen in the immediate future.

Doncaster Knights, Yorkshire’s highest-placed club, have their own academy and having had to raise £50,000 through crowdfunding to help keep their heads above water, an additional cost would probably be beyond their means. More details and reaction will follow in Sunday’s edition of The Rugby Paper.

JON NEWCOMBE

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