On-loan Leicester wing David Williams claims Championship players are going unpaid as tier two clubs battle with the financially crippling effects of coronavirus.
With the 2020/21 Championship campaign unlikely to start before mid-December – and even then only if crowds are allowed – players fear contracts may be cancelled.
The Rugby Paper is aware of one player left in limbo because a job offer outside rugby has failed to materialise, while others have yet to resume proper training.
Nottingham flyer Williams has found a welcome bolthole at Leicester, where he has made a strong start in the Premiership, boosting his chances of a full contract.
However, he says RFU funding cutbacks last February, followed by the onset of Covid-19, have left the careers of numerous Championship players in the balance.
Nottingham have gone part-time and Williams said: “Initially, the rumours of going part-time came in February when RFU cuts were announced.
“It wasn’t just Nottingham, there was a lot of nervousness from guys at clubs around the whole country. There were worries because people had signed contracts and we didn’t know whether they’d still be eligible or not.
“Then, two weeks later, Covid-19 wipes out the whole fixture list and it’s been tough. I keep in touch with a fair few players and some are still waiting on contracts, some have signed contracts and haven’t been paid – and don’t know when they will get paid.
“Some are still at university so if the worst happens and there’s no rugby at all, they can still do their studies. But it’s a turbulent time and the people I feel sorry for most of all are the ones who’ve got mortgages and kids.
“If I wasn’t at Leicester now it would just be myself to focus on, but there are boys with responsibilities, payments and people to look after.”
With Championship clubs facing an uncertain future, Williams hopes more funding can be found and that the RFU place faith in nurturing the competition.
He added: “I guess the RFU are stuck between a rock and a hard place and everyone’s strapped for cash. They’ve just got rid of the Sevens programme so it’s tough for people who run the Championship, but it does deserve better funding.
“It’s a great breeding ground and although it’s a different type of rugby to the Premiership, that’s not necessarily down to playing standards but partially to do with facilities.
“Physically, the Championship is right up there with the Premiership so there’s enough quality to justify funding from the RFU. I just hope they see sense and eventually, when they’re in a position to do so financially, restore funding to where it was.”
Meanwhile, Williams is fighting for a contract extension at Welford Road, where he spent three years in the academy before joining Ebbw Vale in 2015, then Nottingham a year later.
Business management and economics graduate Williams, 24, said: “I’ve tried to grab my opportunity and prove the coaches were right to have faith in me.
“I’m a grafter, with or without the ball, and I’m decent in the air, pretty quick and have good evasion skills, so hopefully I can stay longer than October.”