The Wild West of Rugby

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  1. #1
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    The Wild West of Rugby

    Very sobering article from the Guardian about what's happening to players in the Championship.

    https://www.theguardian.com/sport/bl...-union-dangers
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    Not sure how I feel about this. First reaction is anger at the exploitation, second is that they chose their career and there are plenty of other people in less rewarding badly-paid job.

    Perfect world the championship would be fully professional at a comfortable minimum salary, but the clubs can't pay for that so it comes down to whether the RFU a) can and b) wants to. Is investment in that better spent than elsewhere, grass roots rugby or whatever?

    Alternatively, is there scope for a "feeder club" system where Prem clubs might contribute to wages in exchange for access to players on loan / first dibs on transfer options? Probably not, unfortunately only a couple have spare money for that. But long-term, supported by the RFU?

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    The main issue as I see it is there will always be a level just below a threshold where this becomes a problem. It's very bad its out second tier but solving it just pushes the problems down to the third tier.

    Not sue exactly what you can do in reality looking at it like that.

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    I feel bad for the guys but I couldn't help thinking "What did you expect?" and how does this benchmark against other sports.

    From the article:

    "We take the same risks, put in the same hours and make the same sacrifices with few of the benefits."

    There are millions of people who do the same, world wide. People do not get paid based on risks taken+hours+sacrifices, but on risks taken+hours+sacrifices+talent.
    The difference between first tier and second tear athletes is abysmal in terms of benefits in pretty much any sport, not just rugby. From ping pong to 100 mts to marathons to boxing to wrestling to mma.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cruz_del_Sur View Post
    I feel bad for the guys but I couldn't help thinking "What did you expect?" and how does this benchmark against other sports.

    From the article:

    "We take the same risks, put in the same hours and make the same sacrifices with few of the benefits."

    There are millions of people who do the same, world wide. People do not get paid based on risks taken+hours+sacrifices, but on risks taken+hours+sacrifices+talent.
    The difference between first tier and second tear athletes is abysmal in terms of benefits in pretty much any sport, not just rugby. From ping pong to 100 mts to marathons to boxing to wrestling to mma.
    The crux of it.

    Professional sport is really an industry which only a few can make it as a professional. As it should be to be honest - it's not a vital industry. As bad as it may be; there are far worse sports out there that cater to far fewer full-time professionals, with even greater risks. How many boxers outside of the elite level of say - top 50 of their weight class - are able to earn a comfortable living? You see guys who are basically fed to elite level prospects to get knocked out in the first round, who are bouncers and firemen in their day jobs.

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    Some good comments above. Much though it grates, this is actually a pretty strong argument against promotion and relegation. Without intervention from the governing body, rugby simply isn't popular enough to support a multi tier professional game.

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    The RFU have no reason to increase funding to the Championship clubs, as they are not an effective development competition. If they actually supported the current club pyramid system then they would increase funding without a doubt.

    The PRL obviously don't see much use of the Championship either, if it folded tomorrow they probably wouldn't care. They would just create a proper Premiership A competition and hire the leftover players and fill it with academy prospects, or leave it to the RFU.

    Inevitably the Premiership will become a ring fenced competition and the championship will either become a) a semi pro league where ambitious clubs look to develop their off field potential and apply for inclusion in the Premiership, or b) it is replaced by a development competition which is fully funded by the RFU and PRL.

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    I'd completely disagree that the Championship isn't an effective development competition.

    I can't see them getting anywhere with what they want and, as with some others, am not full to the brim with sympathy. It's their choice, they turn up, there's nothing stopping them from getting a different job and playing a high level of amateur rugby (my club has had quite a few guys who were around that level and decided the rewards weren't worth the sacrifices). Yes, they are being exploited and should be treated better (and given the riches in English rugby, *could* be treated better), but it's not the only job for miles around. I do commend their dedication though, they're clearly insane in a good way.

    No reason they shouldn't fight for it though.

    Still, found it interesting that it's so shady down there.
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    Well agree to disagree there. I think that all the NH "development" competitions are crap compared to the SH.
    The point is there will be a breaking point though. The current Premiership ------------------------------------------> Championship relationship is not sustainable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TRF_Peat View Post
    I'd completely disagree that the Championship isn't an effective development competition.
    +1. With the DR system in place, I'd predict that more and more of the England squads will have spent time as part of a Championship squad. Off the top of my head, of the current crop of up and coming England prospects at Exeter, Sam Hill, Dave Ewers, Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie all got their first taste of pro / semi-pro rugby at Cornish Pirates, Henry Slade at Plymouth Albion. A good few others in the senior squad played Championship (or N1 as it was at the time) rugby earlier in their career.

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    I should expand on my point.

    What i'm saying is that it isn't as effective as it should be in terms of being a development competition. At the end of the day it is a league system and they are "professional" clubs whose aim is to be promoted to the premiership/win the league if you're Bedford.

    The vast majority of elite players in England come through the RFU age grade systems and premiership club academies. They hardly ever come through the national leagues and championship etc... To start developing top elite players and be able to retain them yourself, you need to have an RFU Academy licence, which are regionally based and bid on by rival clubs anyway.

    So it's kind of just a league for rejects with a sprinkling of dual loaned young prospects from the Premiership if you think about it. Just like the Welsh Premiership and AIL league. Which clubs from the Championship and National Leagues can you honestly see doing an Exeter in the near future?

    I believe the RFU want to change the system, that's why they refuse to increase funding. The Premiership clubs want to ring fence and see no use for most of the Championship clubs, bar a few that's why they refuse to bring them under their umbrella like the Top clubs do with the Pro D2.

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    Quote Originally Posted by welshglory View Post
    Well agree to disagree there. I think that all the NH "development" competitions are crap compared to the SH.
    Ian Stirling (former Cornish Pirates High Performance Director) said in an interview given just before he left the club that he believed that if a top Championship (tier 2) side played a top NPC side, the result would be decided by home advantage. Maybe he didn't want to bite the hand that was still feeding him at the time, I don't know.

    Quote Originally Posted by welshglory View Post
    The point is there will be a breaking point though. The current Premiership ------------------------------------------> Championship relationship is not sustainable.
    I tend to agree, there's only so long we can keep saying "it worked for Exeter". Maybe the gulf wouldn't appear so great if some of the stumbling blocks were moved out of the way of the promoted team though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RedruthRFC View Post
    Ian Stirling (former Cornish Pirates High Performance Director) said in an interview given just before he left the club that he believed that if a top Championship (tier 2) side played a top NPC side, the result would be decided by home advantage. Maybe he didn't want to bite the hand that was still feeding him at the time, I don't know.
    Yes i would read that with a pinch of salt. Best young NZ prospects and non international Super rugby players versus t2 British and Irish players, yeah i'd like some of what he's having please! Only thing Championship side would going for them is being together longer as a team.

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    Quote Originally Posted by welshglory View Post
    The vast majority of elite players in England come through the RFU age grade systems and premiership club academies. They hardly ever come through the national leagues and championship etc... To start developing top elite players and be able to retain them yourself, you need to have an RFU Academy licence, which are regionally based and bid on by rival clubs anyway.
    Do you have percentages? Given the number of players who developed their game overseas and those who pre-date the academy system or came via a different route, I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't even a majority who came through this route let alone a vast one. England / Saxons players is another story, I see this percentage as ever increasing and tending towards 100%.

    Quote Originally Posted by welshglory View Post
    So it's kind of just a league for rejects with a sprinkling of dual loaned young prospects from the Premiership if you think about it. Just like the Welsh Premiership and AIL league. Which clubs from the Championship and National Leagues can you honestly see doing an Exeter in the near future?
    Unnecessarily harsh IMO. Players develop at different rates, today's "reject" may be tomorrow's international. Take Dave Ward - he was very close to turning his back on a career in rugby before signing a contract with Cornish Pirates. After three years developing his game in the Championship, he was picked up by Quins, became the player's player of the season and received a call up to the England squad.

    It's far to simplistic to suggest that all players are either rejects or DRs. Plenty of established players have arrived from routes other than being surplus to requirements at an AP club. Rob Cook is a good example, he left Nuneaton to chance his arm at professional rugby with Cornish Pirates, a few years later, he's one of the first names on Gloucester's team sheet.

    In rugby, like anything else, as you tend towards excellence, margins become finer. I would suggest that there's little if anything to chose between a Championship starter and an AP squad player in the majority of cases, be they a reject or not.

    At the moment, the only Championship / N1 side who look like they could sustain AP rugby are Bristol, although I wouldn't describe them doing this as "doing an Exeter". Further down the road, I wouldn't be too shocked to see Coventry "do an Exeter", but they are now, where Exeter were in the mid to late nineties, so if the long shot comes off, it won't be for a long while yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by welshglory View Post
    I believe the RFU want to change the system, that's why they refuse to increase funding. The Premiership clubs want to ring fence and see no use for most of the Championship clubs, bar a few that's why they refuse to bring them under their umbrella like the Top clubs do with the Pro D2.
    I though that PRL were campaigning to do exactly that fairly recently, albeit as a carrot to get the Championship clubs to agree to various things.

    I believe that the level of funding that the clubs receive at the moment is about right. Give Championship clubs more money and it will almost inevitably go on overseas "stars" and journeymen who are well past their best. If funding is kept at the current level, it's more likely that EQPs of an age to develop and go on to play at a higher level will get game time. The only problem is if budgets are so tight that players of great potential are lost to the game.

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    The idea that the Championship only contains British and Irish T2 players is strictly non-factual. Bristol's a slightly unfair example, but they're still Championship - them against an NPC team would be interesting.

    I'm procrastinating like mad, but I'm going to go through the Sarries squad and list everyone who's played Championship:

    Jared Saunders (multiple), Scott Spurling (Bedford), Richard Barrington (multiple), Petrus du Plessis (multiple), Mako Vunipola (Bristol), George Kruis (Bedford), Will Fraser (Bedford), Matt Hankin, Jackson Wray, Ben Ransom (All Bedford), Mike ellery (Moseley), Chris Wyles (Nottingham), Chris Ashton (Saints), Nathan Earle, Duncan Taylor (both bedford), Tim Streather (Nottingham), Owen Farrell (Bedford).

    Even the best academy youth products see time there; not every academy is in the Premiership; and some very good players have started there. One could argue about whether it's the most effective development tool in the world, sure, but it is one that doing it's bit and would be greatly missed if it was a lesser thing.
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    This all sounds a bit like the big boys wanting to keep all the money to me Greed if you like.
    The championship is underfunded when clubs like Plymouth go bust and clubs like Cornish pirates struggle for every penny something is very wrong. You cannot cut off the grass roots without damaging the grass. The championship is the Premierships life blood Having seen so many players move through the clubs and into the prem over the years its hard to understand why you guys think so little of it. If it was properly funded and clubs allowed to grow im sure the quality of players would improve further. Likewise if there was a fair religation and promotion between the prem and Championship it would improve things further. Two up two down and no ring fencing. If there has to be a playoff let it be between bottom but one in the prem against second from top of the Championship.
    Guys these are great clubs that are run by some of the best rugby people, coached by many a dedicated ex prem player and supported by so many die hard people. We must not let them bleed to death for the sake of a 2p plaster.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alias View Post
    Guys these are great clubs that are run by some of the best rugby people, coached by many a dedicated ex prem player and supported by so many die hard people. We must not let them bleed to death for the sake of a 2p plaster.
    Totally agree with that. Its just the financial aspect that bothers me beneath AP level, I don't want to see any of these clubs go to the wall on the back of ambition. I hate the idea of ring fencing and franchises, but that's inevitably the direction of travel for the top flight.

    In athletics the likes of Farah, Ennis-Hill etc make a very good living. But they are the exceptions and even Greg Rutherford struggled to get sponsors after winning gold in 2012. In essence its 2 completely different sports - the very elite few and the rest. And I see rugby as much more akin to that than football with a tiered professional structure.

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    To my mind, the RFU must decide what it considers the Championship to be - if it is part of the feeder system then it should be funded more appropriately.
    If not then they still need to focus on the basic of player protection and medical facilities.

    What I don't understand though is how players can be on full-time contracts worth 6k a year - a basic minimum wage is over 10k so how do they get away with this?

    Rugby seems to have a problem in that clubs do not seem to be considered businesses that should be self-funding but instead are often viewed as playthings for rich folk - the extra money creates a good product but is only sustainable at the whims of the self-same rich people.

    At what level do we decide that clubs must be able to show that they can support themselves?

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    I'd be surprised if there's an equivalent competition anywhere in the world that actually makes money.


    Yes, rugby from the grass roots up needs the financial support to develop the players and to look after them, or else they will choose other paths/options, and it will effect the quality of the top echelon of players, due to lack of competition/quality of talent vying for places, but it's a question of who pays. Perhaps as the end beneficiaries are the national side, and the premiership clubs, some sort of shared financial responsibility would be the answer.

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