[Who would go to watch divisional games?]
>And how many were paying any attention to Richmond, Newcastle or the like?
>How many Saracens fans do you think there were in Watford last year? The
>divisional competition was a victim of the era and the circumstances, the
>first has changed and the second could easily be changed.
Well, the easiest question to answer is how many Saracens fans were in
Watford last year - answer not a lot! Newcastle have probably doubled
or tripled their gates, but 200% of nothing is nothing.
The ludicrous amount of money being lost by the clubs is at least
partly explained by the singular inability of the clubs to get viable
attendances. Bristol made a loss of about 500,000 pounds last season,
which over 10 home games at 10 pounds a go equates to another 5,000
needed per game, a 100% increase. Rounded figures of course.
A number of other clubs have a higher wages bill and need a
correspondingly large increase in gates to move into the black.
Bottom line is, there aren't enough fans to pay for current salaries,
regardless of the set-up.
>I'm not saying that the divisional competition didn't have huge problems in
>the past, not least being a lack of both identity and status [at the point
>where England players started announcing they couldn't be bothered to play
>in the competition the writing was on the wall]. But that was then, now
>with professional rugby it is possible to establish divisional rugby.
>Indeed there is a template out there with New Zealand's Super 12 teams.
The point about the former divisional championship is common ground,
at least :-).
The move to a divisional tier will be fought very hard by the clubs,
for a variety of reasons. I fel the main flaw with you r suggestion is
the small number of divisions you propose. Four won't make much of a
difference- after all, there were 77 players named in the pre-Woodward
England squad, which leaves no room for new players. Not least is the
one Nigel Wray frequently makes: fans need the habit of going to home
games every fortnight, or they won't come regularly at all. An extra
month away from club games will severely hinder these new spectators'
To be viable in its current form, or any other for that matter,
English professional rugby must be less reliant on TV revenue - i.e.
Sky. The viewing figures for the European games make very sobor
reading. The biggest figure was apparently around 150,000. Sky simply
will not continue with this loss leader indefinitely, and the clubs
will do well to take that on board very soon. The clubs are showing
signs of doing that. The salaries paid are another matter of course.
>>Another point: where could such a competition be fitted in the
>Well I think the first thing to do is to decide what structure suits
>English rugby best, of course scheduling will be a problem -- although if
>they start by tearing up the current mess and beginning again from scratch
>things could hardly turn out worse.
>Part of the current problems is that
>clubs need to play every week in order to just bring in money. But there
>isn't enough money to support that many teams, and especially that number
>of players being paid that much money. If clubs were not the top of the
>hierarchy then their budgets could be far lower, and they could play a
>reduced number of fixtures (or at least play fixtures without their big
>name players which might not draw such crowds).
Agreed regarding the money. The idea of clubs running on a much lower
budget depends on a large drop in player salaries, which remains the
biggest problem. Clubs are now trapped in a wages spiral to attract
the best players, and that will be extremely hard to break. I can't
see anyone making money out of owning a club, as the current owners
are finding out. A collapse in the suger daddy investments will be
painful, but is the only way to return the club game to some form of
>>[.... Ben's anti club speech snipped]
>>>There is, and of course should be, a place for the clubs in the scheme of
>>Thank heavens for that! After all, it is the clubs that are bringing
>>about the improvements in English rugby standards, not the RFU, who
>>even fought against English clubs playing in a European competition.
>Hardly surprising that the RFU didn't have a coherent plan when they were
>in such turmoil themselves. It was natural that the clubs stepped into the
>void and moved things forward, but I don't think the past failures of the
>divisional competition or the current status of the clubs are any reason
>not to think about changes.
I agree changes are necessary, but the vested interests are very
strong and will lead to more entrenchment in my view. There is talk in
the media of the ERFU "getting revenge" on clubs such as Newcastle, by
banning Ryan for example, and talk of the RFU, namely Brittle and
Cotton, moving the clock backwards. The genie is out of the bottle
though, and such talk is either very mischievious reporting or a very
worrying attitude from the RFU.
The complete lack of strategy exhibited by the ERFU was extremely
regrettable, but has left a situate where the two parties need to be
far more constructive. Trying to impose a new regional competition on
the game will simply frighten the sugar daddies, leading to a
wholesale collapese in club finances as they withdraw in my view. This
is because the owners see merchantising as the saviour of their
investments, and they will not allow the clubs to be pushed to a lower
rung with a lower profile without a ***y fight.
>In large part the resistance of the RFU to English clubs entering the
>European competition comes down simply to the fact that the RFU had little
>say or influence over the competition and as such were once again being
>asked to trust the future of English rugby in the hands of the clubs. As I
>said, I think there are reasons to distrust clubs with the future of the
>game since their best interests are served [at least in the short-term] by
>their individual success, but what is best for these particular clubs may
>not be what is best for the game in England. I don't think the clubs have
>bad intentions, just different interests.
I'm glad you made that clear, as I was beginning to wonder :-).
However it is too easy to say the ERFU resisted the European Cup
because of a lack of control. The whole evidence of the last few years
suggests to me that the ERFU didn't like the idea of money going
directly to the clubs, weakening their control over them. The clubs
are now more vibrant and proactive than ever before, despite the
obvious financial problems, and the RFU needs to raise their pace of
thought and action by a considerable degree to gain my confidence, for
whatever that is worth. Like it or not, the clubs are in the driving
seat, and it will take tact and patience by the ERFU to pull the
situation round to a more balanced partnership between the two.
Imposing things won't get anywhere, and that appears to be the way the
RFU are thinking.
>>>lack not only a structure to identify and groom their future coach, but are
>>>also unable to get the ones involved in English game even if they want them
>>>to do the job then surely that should scream out that something is wrong.
>>Y'what? I would have thought the England coach business shows the ERFU
>>[presumably Cotton and Beaumont] have very disjointed thought
>>processes. A lack of suitable coaching candidates points to the
>>backwardness of the RFU's coaching policy rather than anything else.
>>What's more, the problem has been around for a long time, not just
>>since professionalisation. What on earth has it to do with the clubs
>>or divisional championships?
>Can you imagine a divisional team refusing to release their coach to the
>national side, or saying they might do so on a part-time basis? Or indeed
>why would you appointment somneone to that position in a divisional team if
>they weren't interested in the national job?
The way recent things have been handled by the RFU I am utterly
astonished anyone is remotely interested in the England coaching job.
If the RFU are insistent on a full-time coach, as they are, then they
must expect to buy people out of current contracts. I think Bath might
well suffer for giving up Woodward to coach England, and Northampton
would definitely have suffered (even more) if McGeechan had taken the
job. Becoming a divisional coach might be attractive if it was handled
the right way, but a four or five game season would automatically mean
they'd have to also be full-time club coaches (or amateurs), leaving
the contractual situation unchanged.
>With let's say four divisional
>teams, an England 'A' coach and an U21's coach there would be an automatic
>shortlist of half a dozen candidates, all of who would have some experience
>with the England set-up, all would have some sort of international
>experience (since the divisions would have fixtures against all major
>touring teams [provinces and national sides] and could tour themselves),
>and all would be available.
The number of games might well be less than you think, Ben. Long tours
are way out of fashion. Australia and South Africa are playing very
few non-test games against English sides from what I know, and NZ are
playing Emerging England, an Allied Dunbar XV (whatever that is), and
England A. The tours of SH provinces for example would be very
difficult to accomodate in a club league system. Witness the pretty
poor show last season regarding the touring provinces.
>While the top of the English game remains the
>clubs then England's needs will always come second, that
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