RFU warned lat­est job cuts could be ‘com­plete car crash’ for grass roots

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Rugby Union By Char­lie Mor­gan

The Rugby Foot­ball Union has been warned that its lat­est round of fi­nan­cial cuts risks trig­ger­ing “a com­plete car crash” that will cause last­ing dam­age to the com­mu­nity game.

As part of a move to re­duce the num­ber of roles across the or­gan­i­sa­tion by 141, and in ad­di­tion to down­siz­ing the Eng­land sev­ens pro­gramme, it is un­der­stood the gov­ern­ing body’s com­mu­nity de­part­ment is to shrink by 104.

All rugby de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer and com­mu­nity rugby coach po­si­tions will go, with 81 new roles be­com­ing avail­able as 185 are re­moved. Among the new jobs will be a ge­o­graph­i­cally spread net­work of coach and club de­vel­op­ers.

How­ever, there is a fear north­ern coun­ties may not be ad­e­quately served by such a sys­tem.

Gareth Dyer is head of rugby op­er­a­tions at Pre­ston Grasshop­pers RFC, whose men’s first team were rel­e­gated from Na­tional Two North, English rugby union’s fourth tier, last sea­son. An ex­am­ple of a thriv­ing com­mu­nity club, Grasshop­pers boasted 200 ac­tive men’s se­nior play­ers, with 40 women’s play­ers plus around 400 boys and girls across their mini and ju­nior sec­tion over the 2019-20 sea­son. Dyer is wor­ried that, with­out a net­work of RDOs and CRCs, par­tic­i­pa­tion could plum­met.

“A lot of those com­mu­nity rugby coaches and de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cers looked af­ter clubs like ours all the way down to the very bot­tom of the pyra­mid,” he said.

“They were up-skilling club coaches, or­gan­is­ing and run­ning cour­ses to help them im­prove in spe­cific and tech­ni­cal ar­eas. Then you had the wider in­te­gra­tion.

“They were talk­ing to col­leges and schools, all man­ner of dif­fer­ent ar­eas where young peo­ple could po­ten­tially play the game, and they would af­fil­i­ate those schools with lo­cal clubs.

“There was a real to­geth­er­ness, a sense that we could help each other. They were say­ing: ‘We are the RFU, we are here to drive par­tic­i­pa­tion. You’re where we want these young­sters to go on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.’ We worked re­ally well on that. We’re get­ting a huge flood of tal­ent be­ing pulled away.”

Dyer also has mis­giv­ings about how the RFU will or­gan­ise its ge­o­graph­i­cal distri­bu­tion of new coach de­vel­op­ers and club de­vel­op­ers.

Pre­vi­ously, 12 RDOs and CRCs were al­lo­cated to the North West re­gion. He be­lieves Lan­cashire could end up be­ing served by a sin­gle RFU em­ployee.

Given many CRCs earned a salary of £20,000, some £5,000 less than mem­bers of Eng­land men’s team have picked up for a Test match, Dyer won­ders whether their value was fully ap­pre­ci­ated.

“It’s just go­ing to be a com­plete car crash for north­ern club rugby, in par­tic­u­lar,” he added. “I don’t envy [RFU chief ex­ec­u­tive] Bill Sweeney or any­body try­ing to nav­i­gate this process.

“I know they are in­her­it­ing a lot of is­sues from the for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tion, but these com­mu­nity coaches get [ just] 20 grand a year.”

The RFU said: “We aren’t com­ment­ing on the record about this as we are in in­di­vid­ual con­sul­ta­tion with col­leagues.”

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