Michael Aylwin has written a good piece on Sport500 about the inevitability of the demise of London Welsh. But what do people mean when they talk about the gap between the Championship and Premiership. I’ll take a look at some of the less obvious issues that aren’t often talked about.
I’m a very strong believer that to be successful on the pitch required the club or union to have all its ducks in a row off the pitch first. So whilst most pundits will talk about the gap in player salary budget and lack of time to sign players as being handicaps for the Championship sides I think it starts much earlier than that.
Sides in the Championship don’t have the same budget and that does impact the size of their administration team. That cuts across marketing, accounting, etc… Even sides like Worcester Warriors and Exeter Chiefs, who are held up as shining examples of how to get into and survive in the Premiership, have had issues. Worcester had a LV=Cup point deduction for an administrative error around player registration in 2012 and Exeter had 2 Aviva Premiership points deducted similarly as Nadolo entered England on his Australian not Fijian passport. However a sign that London Welsh weren’t prepared was much larger, their team manager Mike Scott was banned for life from Rugby for falsifying player registrations. Tyson Keats played 10 games when he shouldn’t have been allowed to. London Welsh were fined and lost 5 points which could have been higher as the preceded was 1 point per game a player illegally plays.
JB did a good interview with Christian Day on The Rugby Dungeon podcast, Christian Day is the chairman of the Rugby Players Association that covers all Premiership Players. One of the things that they do is set minimum standards around players contracts and mediate between players and clubs when issues arise. Nothing like this is set up for the Championship clubs and if you listen to the interview it will become apparent that not all the clubs would want it to happen. Players in the championship can be on very short-term rolling contracts. This means that they can be an injury or concussion away from losing their jobs and ability to pay the mortgage/feed the family. Whilst Premiership players might be on a year-long contract they don’t have to worry about where their money is coming from week to week.
I’m also a great believer that if something obvious is not up to scratch then there is likely to be gaps or issues elsewhere that you haven’t found or heard of yet. So these are just a couple of issues that show the gap it’s only in budget for players, but runs from the front to the back of the club. Championship clubs can lack the experienced administrators to follow the rules correctly and have players on some very insecure contracts. Where there are these kind of uncertainties off the pitch, the coaches and players don’t have the base to fully concentrate on delivering on the pitch.