Back­ing grass­roots will of­fer best ‘rugby re­turn’

The Rugby Paper - - Letters / Views -

SO, to ad­dress their con­tin­u­ing fi­nan­cial is­sues, the RFU are be­lat­edly set­ting in place “fi­nan­cial met­rics, against which spend­ing and in­vest­ment de­ci­sions will be made to en­sure the great­est rugby and fi­nan­cial re­turns”.

Un­for­tu­nately, cur­rent in­di­ca­tions from Twick­en­ham are that com­mu­nity clubs need­ing to fund the re­place­ment of out­dated club­house fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices are un­likely to be able to count on any sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion from HQ beyond £100,000 in­ter­est free loans – very help­ful in smooth­ing cash­flows, but cost­ing the RFU only the mod­est com­mer­cial in­ter­est in­come they are fore­go­ing.

At the same time, the Premier­ship and Cham­pi­onship clubs will con­tinue to re­ceive the lion’s share of RFU fund­ing, while also be­ing ef­fec­tively sub­sidised in kind by ju­nior clubs around the coun­try.

These ju­nior clubs are stretch­ing their vol­un­teer and fi­nan­cial re­sources to break­ing point to pro­vide ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties for Mini and Youth rugby – these clubs are the source of the bulk of the raw play­ing ma­te­rial, on which the top clubs de­pend.

Un­for­tu­nately, be­cause, by def­i­ni­tion, com­mu­nity clubs op­er­ate in the in­ter­ests of their play­ers, we are not in a po­si­tion to hold the RFU or pro­fes­sional clubs to ran­som for our bet­ter play­ers in re­turn, say, for a “Com­mu­nity Game Agree­ment” to se­cure our fi­nan­cial fu­tures – we want our mem­bers to be able to play the best rugby they are ca­pa­ble of.

With­out such a gun to their head, it is prob­a­bly far too much to hope for an en­light­ened new regime that might recog­nise the need to mo­bilise greater fi­nan­cial sup­port for com­mu­nity clubs.

If they do not, though, they are run­ning a se­ri­ous risk that the creak­ing in­fra­struc­ture, vol­un­teer base and fi­nances of grass­roots rugby will col­lapse.

What greater “rugby re­turn” could pos­si­bly be gained from an in­vest­ment than the pre­ven­tion of such a catas­tro­phe? JOHN ALLANSON Bishop’s Stort­ford

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