By Andrew Reynolds
As sportsmen all you want is to win and if you win the league, then get promoted. Well, if you’re a player in the Championship, you can put your body on the line as much as you like but it’s out of your hands.
The RFU has a list as long as 3 arms of certain criteria that have to be met to gain promotion into the top flight, oh and it all has to be in place in the depths of winter before you win the play off finals in mid-May. What is going on?
OK so there has to be certain criteria, a certain number of toilets, floodlights, and seating but how difficult is this to put in over the summer months? Why are clubs, whose finances are on a knife edge, going to invest in February for something that might not happen? Why don’t the RFU relax things and agree with the clubs on certain criteria that have to be put in place over the closed season?
It may well be portable toilets and temporary stands that come straight from Silverstone but does it matter? The additional money the club gains through the Premiership adventure can then be used to invest in permanent facilities.
The RFU also has a minimum capacity for each ground. Of course, those who play in football stadiums will have no problems - Nottingham, Leeds and Bristol - but most others will unless you want to be standing 20 deep, hence the capping of their ground capacity.
Is it not the norm that some Premiership matches sell out, Bath for example, who if relegated won’t meet the criteria to come back up? So if Leicester were to visit the likes of Rotherham they would just have to purchase tickets in advance as they do now. As long as the home club, who get around 1000 on a normal Championship game, with an approximate capacity of 4500, allocate a percentage to the away side, is there really an issue?
Famous within the Championship is the slope on the pitch at Bedford. This won’t meet the criteria; it’s about a 6 foot drop across the length of the pitch. The last time I watched a game, the teams changed ends at half time, so it’s fair to both sides. To have it levelled will cost Millions. It’s just the same as playing cricket at Lords; players and spectators alike love it. It adds something different.
If the RFU asked the supporters, not the officials, of the clubs in Premiership if they would mind playing the Championship sides, I would guess that nearly all would welcome it. Some of the Championship clubs have been around for well over 100 years and have a great tradition in the game, play in a close family-like environment, welcome away fans with open arms, have clubhouses that all can use, which the players will be in after the game.
Harlequins, Worcester and Northampton have all had time to re-stock and re-build in the Championship; they all came back much stronger for it. If the clubs don’t get the opportunity of promotion and reap the financial rewards for it, the facilities at these clubs will never improve.
Let’s see what happens over the next few weeks. If the likes of London Welsh or Bedford win the play off final, what will happen then?
Follow Andy on Twitter @mrandyreynolds