The Breakdown | English rugby union adjusts to grim reality as RFU thrashes out new deal

The memories of the recent Rugby World Cup are slowly fading away. Fans and players in England should now shift their focus to the domestic top-flight fixtures and the upcoming Six Nations tournament. However, for clubs like Worcester Warriors, Wasps, and London Irish, there is no such luxury. These clubs have been hit by a series of catastrophes in the past year, leaving a void in the rugby community.

Bob Low, a long-time supporter and board member of Worcester Warriors Supporters Association, describes the situation as a definite void in the city. The collapse of these clubs has had a profound impact on the fans and their weekends now feel incomplete. Duncan Kendall, vice chair of the London Irish Supporters Club, also feels the sadness of the situation. He still has player awards to hand out for a professional club that no longer exists.

The disintegration of these clubs is an ongoing tragedy that cannot be ignored. While the Rugby World Cup may have temporarily diverted attention, the problems facing the domestic game remain. The collapse of these clubs is a reflection of larger issues such as inflated wage bills, over-reliance on wealthy benefactors, and falling attendances. The suspension of relegation from the top flight has created a lack of jeopardy in many fixtures, which damages the quality of the product.

Addressing these problems requires more than just superficial solutions. The Rugby Football Union is currently negotiating a new professional game partnership with the aim of restructuring the broken system. Closer marketing efforts, hybrid player contracts, and a sustainable governance model are all part of the discussions. However, simply increasing revenue or tinkering with player contracts is not enough. A fundamental change is needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of the domestic game.

The main concern is the over-reliance on wealthy backers, which is not a reliable or robust way to operate a business. It is crucial to promote the positive aspects of the game and find solutions that benefit all stakeholders. The forthcoming deal between the RFU and Premiership Rugby presents an opportunity to set aside self-interest and focus on the collective good of rugby. This must be a priority for all involved, including the RFU CEO Bill Sweeney.

The recent collapse of clubs like London Irish highlights the urgent need for change. The belief that financial support will always be there is no longer sustainable. It is clear that something drastic needs to be done to ensure the future of the domestic game. The forthcoming deal between the RFU and Premiership Rugby must address these issues and prioritize the long-term sustainability of rugby in England. Only then can the void left by the collapse of these clubs be filled and the game move forward in a positive direction.