Morgan: Rugby is not thriving

Mark Morgan, pictured celebrating Jersey’s Championship success last weekend, is concerned about the impact ‘poor leadership’ from the RFU is having on various levels of rugby Picture: ROB CURRIE

FURTHER pressure for change has been piled onto RFU chiefs by Jersey Reds officials in the wake of the club’s historic Championship triumph.

Reds director Mark Morgan has offered a scathing review of the governing body’s performance this season, as clubs across the country – including a host of big-name Premiership outfits – struggle to make ends meet.

He says executives at Twickenham are failing in their job to ensure the game is ‘thriving’ at all levels and has called a lack of clarity over the immediate future of the Championship ‘unacceptable’.

Confirmation over whether there would be relegation from the second tier this term was only provided last month, and there is still uncertainty over the status of cash-stricken Wasps, who may – or may not – be joining the Championship for 2023/24 after being expelled from the Premiership.

News also broke this week that London Irish have not kept up with paying staff and player wages.

‘Whether it’s rugby or any other sport, the governing body of that sport has one job: to make its sport thrive at every possible level,’ said Morgan. But that’s not happening in rugby.

‘If you look from the top down right now, talking specifically about the men’s game, we’re the biggest and most wealthy union in the world but England have finished fourth, third and fifth in the last three Six Nations. I don’t know how that’s justifiable.

‘Then if you look at the Premiership, under this group’s watch two big clubs [Wasps and Worcester] have gone bust. That wasn’t the the RFU’s fault, but who was looking at the finances of these clubs to ensure that didn’t happen? You have two or three more clubs hanging on by their finger nails in the Premiership and I don’t see any of our clubs being remotely competitive on the European stage.

‘I don’t see any thriving in the Premiership, and if you look at the next level down – they have drained the lifeblood out of the Championship. It is my understanding that rugby is the only sport where its governing body hasn’t put back the money it took out for Covid. It has come down to individual clubs like ourselves, Ealing, Doncaster making efforts to keep the league vibrant, because we’ve had literally zero support from the RFU.

‘Then the next level – the National Leagues – a high percentage of fixtures are cancelled either because clubs can’t get the players together or they can’t afford to travel long distances any longer.

‘At every level, there is no sign of thriving in our sport whatsoever.’

Morgan, who watched his team lift the Championship trophy at St Peter last weekend, also reiterated his desire for a review of movement between the country’s top two divisions – including stadium criteria.

‘Sport is about winning and losing and promotion and relegation,’ he said. ‘Whether it’s us or Ealing, anybody winning the Championship should be given an opportunity to play at the next level and be funded accordingly.

‘If you look at football, with all the thousands of people who follow the sport and all the money in the game, they only require 5,000 capacity for the Premier League, so why on Earth would the RFU encumber us with 10,000 [capacity requirement]? It doesn’t make sense. To me, they’re focused on the wrong stuff.

‘It’s not about the size of the stadium, it’s about getting teams together to compete at a high level. You only have to look at France to see what a difference having two properly funded divisions makes to the national team. They have left us years behind.’

Discussing the potential make-up of the Championship next season – with a minimum of 11 teams guaranteed, potentially rising to 12 or 13, depending on the plights of Wasps, Irish and Co – Morgan added: ‘How can we plan and budget and sell season tickets when we don’t know what we’re selling? It’s another example of poor leadership and treating the Championship as an after thought. It’s unacceptable.’

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