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County Rugby Under Threat

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    Posted: 21 Feb 2017 at 10:23

Thanks to Neale for allowing me to re-post his article that appeared in Sunday's The Rugby Paper.

RFU cost-cutting threatens to wreck County rugby

EXCLUSIVE By NEALE HARVEY

Lancashire head coach Mark Nelson has slammed cost-cutting proposals that could see the England Counties team and the County Championship axed.


The Rugby Paper understands elements within the RFU hierarchy view county rugby as an unnecessary financial burden and that behind-closed-doors talks aimed at slashing the Union’s commitment to it have been taking place for months.

England Counties take on their Scottish counterparts at Moseley this Friday and while this summer’s proposed tour to Portugal and Spain is expected to go ahead, the scheduling of future tours and matches during the Six Nations remain shrouded in doubt.


With the long-term future of the historic County Championship also being debated, Nelson told The Rugby Paper: “Elements within the RFU would happily see County rugby go but in my view it’s a fundamental part of rugby below the professional game.


“County rugby is a different competition; it’s the only representative chance the majority of club players ever get. It gives those players an opportunity to represent their Counties at Twickenham and then to tour with the Counties’ national team. 


“It’s a massively important part of the English game and people who seek to undermine that or bring about its demise are being massively detrimental to the game. I know discussions are taking place but I don’t understand the arguments against it.”


Nelson fears money used to fund County rugby will be diverted into leagues.

He added: “Clubs are looking for more funding to go around the Championship, National One and National Two, so they’re looking to cull other areas of the game to service those needs, with the County Championship potentially a victim.

 “But where do they see the game going? Do they see it just becoming about league rugby with no cups, no variety and a ceiling at the top of National One?


“County rugby is aspirational and on the 2004 tour to Canada we had Ben Foden, Shaun Perry, David Strettle and Matt Jess in our team, but if you do away with it you will be condemning potential top players like them to a diet of league rugby.”

 

 

 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Remember Izal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Feb 2017 at 10:33
Interesting subject and well done to Mark Nelson for highlighting this but is it a bit like running up a down escalator as so few Counties are able to put out competitive teams given the current League Structure and the apathy of the semi professional players after a 30 game season?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Athman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Feb 2017 at 12:47
I think the compromise should be to cease playing the spring internationals as I'm not sure that the side selected really has anything to do with Counties but to retain the Summer tour and apply to World Rugby for funding with the Counties team seen as part of World Rugby's third tier development programme (playing third tier international sides is probably about right for the Counties team). The RFU put very little money into County rugby anyway other than finals day at Twickenham which is always subsidised by the England international played on the same day. Outside of that the RFU do stump up a bit of travel money but that is never much more than enough to either get your team half way to its destination of half the team all the way to its destination so for a Union with coffers the size of the RFU this can be no more than a drop in the ocean.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RedOrDead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Feb 2017 at 15:00
The key phrase here is "The Rugby Paper understands". The Rugby Paper has understood a lot of things, they're quick to crow when what they understand comes to pass, but I don't recall them ever saying "contrary to what we previously predicted" when it doesn't. The cynic in me would suggest that these sort of articles appear when there are column inches to fill in TRP. It makes for frustrating reading as the author doesn't seek to answer any of the questions that his readers must be asking as they read the article, like what are the costs mentioned?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RedOrDead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Feb 2017 at 15:02
Originally posted by Remember Izal Remember Izal wrote:

Interesting subject and well done to Mark Nelson for highlighting this but is it a bit like running up a down escalator as so few Counties are able to put out competitive teams given the current League Structure and the apathy of the semi professional players after a 30 game season?

It remains to be seen how well the new CC format will work, but now the top tier has been expanded, how many CBs with National League sides are unable to field competitive sides?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Remember Izal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2017 at 09:46

It remains to be seen how well the new CC format will work, but now the top tier has been expanded, how many CBs with National League sides are unable to field competitive sides?
 
I suspect mainly those where the best players are generally not interested and either want a rest, aren't being paid or fancy a bit of light relief (or payment) playing sevens.
There is a lot of talk about player welfare and what did come out of the Adult competition review was a general disquiet about that from players and clubs(perhaps for different reasons). Look at Nat 1 and 2 clubs who basically have to flog their players without a break from mid August till Christmas that's the system and to me its crazy.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Insignificant Tick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2017 at 11:24
"The Rugby Paper understands elements within the RFU hierarchy view county rugby as an unnecessary financial burden and that behind-closed-doors talks aimed at slashing the Union’s commitment to it have been taking place for months."

Why do they never name names unless he is talking about those in a kettle or a lightbulb !

Are these "elements" acting on instruction from their CBs ?

Who are the faceless wonders that keep coming up with these idea's / garbage ?
It is amazing the lack of accountability these people have with regards to decisions taken about a game that one has spent a lifetime involved with but gets more unrecognizable with every passing season. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Camquin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2017 at 11:38
I am not sure this comes form the council.
Surely like everything else this will be driven by the full time executive.
Of course the Sports Council believe the organisation is too outdated and in the name of modernization all power has to be stripped from the council and given to the executive.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Allan Foster Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2017 at 11:54
Originally posted by Athman Athman wrote:

I think the compromise should be to cease playing the spring internationals as I'm not sure that the side selected really has anything to do with Counties but to retain the Summer tour and apply to World Rugby for funding with the Counties team seen as part of World Rugby's third tier development programme (playing third tier international sides is probably about right for the Counties team). The RFU put very little money into County rugby anyway other than finals day at Twickenham which is always subsidised by the England international played on the same day. Outside of that the RFU do stump up a bit of travel money but that is never much more than enough to either get your team half way to its destination of half the team all the way to its destination so for a Union with coffers the size of the RFU this can be no more than a drop in the ocean.

This is a very sensible compromise Athman. And well said Mark Nelson for highlighting the issue. There must surely be more to semi-pro rugby than a constant diet of league rugby. You only have to see the reaction of players at England Counties games to see how much it means to them, for many the highlight of their careers. These games, at home and on tour, provide a different environment, different coaching ideas, new team mates and friendships.

Some of us have heard the name of the main perpetrator believed to be behind this move within the RFU. It appears yet another move to erect a Trump-like wall between fully professional rugby and the rest of the English game. And it stinks.

An academic is someone who sees something working perfectly in practice & wonders if it will work in theory
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Big Eddie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2017 at 14:21
Originally posted by Allan Foster Allan Foster wrote:


Some of us have heard the name of the main perpetrator believed to be behind this move within the RFU. It appears yet another move to erect a Trump-like wall between fully professional rugby and the rest of the English game. And it stinks.


Spot on Allan. In reality the RFU executive want nothing to do with the game outside the elite level and the professional ranks.....it is just an inconvenience for them. I would go even further and say they have absolutely no regard for it whatsover but.....

...... where do all the professional players initially learn their rugby ?

........ who buys all the tickets for Twickenham and pays the subscription to SKy Sports?

........ who provides the 60,000 or so volunteers who do everything for free?

the die hard rugby fans amongst the 2,000 clubs in England.

IT ISN'T JUST ABOUT THE 12 PREMIERSHIP CLUBS AND THE £2million per annum RFU BOARD
but the RFU Executive wishes it was
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RedOrDead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2017 at 14:52
Hard to dispute any of that Big Eddie. I wonder if some of the vitriol should be directed at the CBs who allowed the situation we now have to develop. If the large number of CB reps are fiddling while the community game burns, what purpose are they serving?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Allan Foster Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2017 at 15:00
Originally posted by Big Eddie Big Eddie wrote:

Originally posted by Allan Foster Allan Foster wrote:


Some of us have heard the name of the main perpetrator believed to be behind this move within the RFU. It appears yet another move to erect a Trump-like wall between fully professional rugby and the rest of the English game. And it stinks.


Spot on Allan. In reality the RFU executive want nothing to do with the game outside the elite level and the professional ranks.....it is just an inconvenience for them. I would go even further and say they have absolutely no regard for it whatsover but.....

...... where do all the professional players initially learn their rugby ?

........ who buys all the tickets for Twickenham and pays the subscription to SKy Sports?

........ who provides the 60,000 or so volunteers who do everything for free?

the die hard rugby fans amongst the 2,000 clubs in England.

IT ISN'T JUST ABOUT THE 12 PREMIERSHIP CLUBS AND THE £2million per annum RFU BOARD
but the RFU Executive wishes it was
I'm not entirely sure to whom our collective ire should be directed BE. We have had visits from some of the most senior RFU execs and they appear very supportive of the ethos, contribution and standard of National League clubs. And we get a little pat on the head from time to time with a cheap trinket or two for helping to produce international players such as Kieran Brookes, Josh Beaumont and Richard Wigglesworth.

But, when the rubber hits the road, all we see is this crude separation of our sport into the 'Professional Game Board' (the serious end of the English game) and the so called 'Community Game Board' (the rest of us unwashed). The semi-pro level appears a particular 'inconvenience' that you mention in this division.

I also think that there are influential figures with fundamentalist views about the proper place of 'community rugby', with salary caps and the like, who are not RFU Executives as I understand that term but are on the RFU Council. These may be our greatest enemies and they need to be challenged fiercely at every opportunity.




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Big Eddie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2017 at 15:10
Originally posted by RedOrDead RedOrDead wrote:

Hard to dispute any of that Big Eddie. I wonder if some of the vitriol should be directed at the CBs who allowed the situation we now have to develop. If the large number of CB reps are fiddling while the community game burns, what purpose are they serving?

RoD,

I completely agree with you on this as well. The CB reps are seduced by freebies from Twickenham and made to feel important by the RFU hierarchy. They are wined and dined and kept sweet by the RFU management who know that as a rule they will not bite the hand that feeds them.

I haven't met a CB rep yet who wasn't an apologist for the RFU and the RFU executive. A few meals, a few bottles of wine, a few trips to HQ and Paris etc is all that is needed to keep most of the CB reps from pi**ing inside the tent.

Do I think it is dishonest, immoral and completely against the spirit and ethos of rugby YES!!

The CB reps should all grow a pair and stop thinking about their position among rugby's hierarchy and elite and start thinking about their 'team mates' - the volunteers at the clubs - who are the backbone of rugby the world over.


Edited by Big Eddie - 22 Feb 2017 at 15:11
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Big Eddie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2017 at 15:32
Allan,

I bristle and rage against the term 'Community Game'. 

It is a patronising term coined by the RFU and designed to dismiss the game outside the professional ranks as being somehow not real rugby. About 10 years ago I was at Twickenham for a County Final between Middlesex and Cheshire. Cheshire won the game and as they mounted the steps to receive the trophy the patronising Tw*t of an announcer laid it on thick as to how these County Players were climbing these famous steps just like teams like Saracens and England have done so. 

His point was ......'you county players are not real rugby players like the professional players but you are so lucky you can play pretend for a day'....I can safely say I was so incensed that if the announcer was standing next to me I would have hit him.

Later during the day I went for a nosy around the corridors of power within Twickenham and I came across a large and beautifully appointed room with a fabulous view out onto the pitch where the CB reps (some of whom I knew) were reclining in leather armchairs watching the next game in splendour, fortified with free drinks and a sumptuous buffet. At that moment it all became clear to me.

To further illustrate the point I attended a lunch last season at Huddersfield RFC and sat next to a former very very senior RFU official who was there to present a plaque to Huddersfield for producing Luther Burrell.

After he had made the presentation I asked him if that was the extent of the RFU's recognition to Huddersfield RFC ...a frigging plaque!!....I then reeled of the latest turnover, payroll costs and the profits made by the RFU and asked the ex RFU senior official how in the face of such excess of the RFU he could justify such casual indifference to a club which had done so much for the English game....to be fair he acknowledged he couldn't and furthermore he agreed with every sentiment I had expressed particularly in connection with the hugely bloated and expansive infrastructure of the 744 employees of the RFU.

744 employees of the RFU....what on earth do they all do......there surely can only be a handful of employees directed towards the 'Community Game'.....because if there are any more than a handful they are wasting their money because the RFU cannot even get their own league tables correct.

At present Wednesday 22 February, Sale FC in National 2 North are shown as having 91 league points by the RFU. This is incorrect it is 93 points. Are the RFU bothered clearly not as there have been mistakes in this league table throughout the season.....oh of course I forgot....it is just Community Rugby so that is ok then.

Something has to be done it is now beyond a disgrace


Edited by Big Eddie - 22 Feb 2017 at 15:51
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Allan Foster Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2017 at 15:53
Agreed BE! But we're now in a world of alternative facts so a narrative that espouses a set of amateur/Corinthian values from times past amongst clubs below the Prem & Championship seems to be believed. The English game should be inclusive. "Let them eat cake" - if only there was cake available for clubs outside the elite 24.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Big Eddie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2017 at 16:03
The thing that really upsets me is the hypocrisy and the double standards.

1. All Premiership clubs and all Championship clubs would be making losses (most are anyway) if they were not subsidised by the RFU to the tune of many millions per annum for the Premiership and £500k per annum for the Championship clubs
2. The clubs below the Championship (level 2) are not subsidised in any meaningful way whatsover by the RFU..(and I ignore the £100s or so per club the RFU may fork out for insurance....and I am probably overstating that)
3. But the RFU and its management and apologists tell the clubs from level 3 down to cut their cloth according to their means

Whys does this mantra not apply to the Professional clubs......and why do the Professional clubs have the the right to be subsidised by the RFU any more than a club at level 3 or 5....it stinks to high heaven!!



Edited by Big Eddie - 22 Feb 2017 at 16:06
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RedOrDead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2017 at 17:47
Originally posted by Big Eddie Big Eddie wrote:

Originally posted by RedOrDead RedOrDead wrote:

Hard to dispute any of that Big Eddie. I wonder if some of the vitriol should be directed at the CBs who allowed the situation we now have to develop. If the large number of CB reps are fiddling while the community game burns, what purpose are they serving?

RoD,

I completely agree with you on this as well. The CB reps are seduced by freebies from Twickenham and made to feel important by the RFU hierarchy. They are wined and dined and kept sweet by the RFU management who know that as a rule they will not bite the hand that feeds them.

I haven't met a CB rep yet who wasn't an apologist for the RFU and the RFU executive. A few meals, a few bottles of wine, a few trips to HQ and Paris etc is all that is needed to keep most of the CB reps from pi**ing inside the tent.

Do I think it is dishonest, immoral and completely against the spirit and ethos of rugby YES!!

The CB reps should all grow a pair and stop thinking about their position among rugby's hierarchy and elite and start thinking about their 'team mates' - the volunteers at the clubs - who are the backbone of rugby the world over.

Again, well said. I always understood that there were perks, but couldn't believe how extensive they were when someone linked to a document listing them all. My suggestion would be that if there is a need for the CB reps to meet face to face, they do so in conferencing facilities, away from the unwanted distractions of booze, international matches and guests / spouses. The hospitality tickets could be sold as corporate hospitality. The profits from this when lumped together with the savings on expenses and the cost of sending them to away matches should be plenty to save the County Championship and England Counties.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote donnyladinsheffield Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2017 at 23:46
Spot on BE, as usual
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Maskedchicken Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Feb 2017 at 08:21
I don't know the facts but if the RFU fund much then they must think why if the players don't buy in? Depending on the county & chances to play at Twickenham, some national league players see it as unnecessary and not really an accomplishment. That brings the standard down.
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