April 14, 2024


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British in rescue operation – Liberation

British in rescue operation – Liberation

Even as they recover after two years of sporting woes, the XV de la Roses have a great chance to reach the semi-finals this Sunday. We still have to beat the Fijian foreigner in Marseille this Sunday, who beat them at Twickenham last August (30-22). It could be the only bright spot for English rugby, which has been plagued by more than a year of stagnation with uncertain outcomes.

Two weeks ago, Bill Sweeney, director general of the British Rugby Union (RFU), faced a revolt from the organisation's 30 executives. The senior officers in question launched a resolution against his leadership and expressed their fears for the RFU and the entire British Oval finances, which were generally considered at risk.

Devastating evidence in support: In the last twelve months, the successive disappearances of four elite clubs – Wasps, London Irish, Worcester and most recently the Jersey Reds. Mentioned as the first two European rugby organizations. The first tremor will begin at the end of September 2022 Acquiring Worcester Warriors. The holding company that controls the contracts of players and management was dissolved by a special London court a few days later, leaving the door open for them to sign other teams.

The Midlands club, tax authorities are demanding almost €7m, has been relegated to the Championship (the 2nd division of English rugby), where it will start the 2023-2024 season. At the same time, in October 2022, wasps with six national titles and two European crowns will no longer be able to provide financial guarantees to cover their debts.

Later, in the spring, the press learned that London Irish employees, including players and staff, had not received their wages for April. The American Presidency of the Londoners announced early payment delays. According to the media across the channel, the debt of the London club is 30 million euros.

These series of declines fuel the fear of an endless spiral. Especially since no one escaped. In total, the clubs' combined losses over the past six years are almost £300 million (€340 million), according to figures released by the Premiership. The RFU report estimates losses at £40m this season.

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Salary in the viewfinder

How could the finances of such historic teams have sunk so low? To do this, you need to start with the income generated by the club. In almost any sport, there are three financial downfalls: ticket revenue, sponsorships and TV rights. The more attractive a championship is, the more spectators it attracts, and these sources of income increase accordingly.

For English rugby, however, the health crisis born from Covid-19 has suddenly crippled a model that, unlike its French neighbour, was already financially unstable. A fall in purchasing power, combined with the temporary suspension of games, created less revenue. Despite the help, these clubs failed to pay.

“This post-Covid period has brought to the surface all the ills that plague the English model, and highlighted all the issues that have been beneath the surface until now.Tony Collins, professor of history at Montford University and author of several works on rugby, including “A Social History of the RFU”, assesses. (A Social History of English Rugby Union, not translated). The salaries of the players are very high compared to the income they can generate. This model is not intended to be static. Almost all Premiership clubs have the same problem, leading to huge debts.

The expert cites the example of Leicester Tigers, “A club attracts crowds but is mired in the mismanagement of its wages”. By early 2023, “They should ask for help.” 13 million pounds to float.

We blame previous mandates for not being able to capitalize on the energy born from the 2003 World Champions title. “English rugby is very ambitious. In this way, it is difficult to make it sustainableTony Collins explains liberation Rugby likes to model itself on England's model sport, football, but football is unrivaled in popularity around the world, and many who work for English rugby feel it can compete with football. It's a dangerous scene.”

Multiple recovery options

Concerned about the situation, the British government launched a parliamentary inquiry in 2022 and commissioned independent consultants to propose solutions to sustain the model. Similar to what he did for football when he proposed introducing an independent regulator to tackle the unreliable finances of Premier League players.

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The RFU and the Premiership were aware of the situation and considered a number of recovery options. In 2019, they closed a deal with a private equity firm CVC Capital Partners allowed thirteen clubs with already fragile finances to receive over £200 million and breathe a little.

Guided by the same concern for balanced finances, the Premiership expanded its Championship from twelve to fourteen clubs in June 2021 – from thirteen last season – while reducing the risk of relegation with a jump-off in between. Last of the regular season and first of the championship (D2). Too late, the maneuver did not have the desired effect. Worse: The rapid decay of this model forces governing bodies to revise downwards.

In this case, the RFU has decided to reduce the Championship to ten clubs from the 2023-2024 season. This amendment makes it possible to optimize the calendar by limiting the number of matches that English clubs lose to international matches. Because, unlike other sports, club rugby continues during the international break.

This time it's this: the Top 14 or Premiership matches are played on weekends with World Cup matches. However, skirmishes deprived of the best elements reduce the competitiveness and therefore the attractiveness of the championship and the economic benefits that go with it. According to Bill Sweeney, director general of the RFU, it is “One of the main problems” Which sector to conquer?

On the downside, cutting the schedule by six appointments will result in a drop in overall revenue. In the English case, this express rebranding hurt broadcaster BT Sport, which did not see its acquisition lose value. The group negotiated the television rights over three years for around 130 million euros. According to an English newspaper postal game, BT Sport demanded a multi-million discount.

The league agrees, with BT Sport in particular lacking a real competitor in the market. However, it is trying to negotiate at all costs to limit the damage and ensure that the benefits are sufficient for the remaining clubs or that they can once again compete with European teams in the transfer market.

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Support recovery funding and federal contracts

In parallel, other activities have been initiated to help the clubs. Co-developed by the RFU and Premiership Rugby “Fund to Support the Most Affected Soldiers and Staff”, Premiership Rugby Executive Director Simon Massey-Taylor announced. As part of a global deal worth £128m (just under €150m), the two organizations will be responsible for the contracts of 25 English internationals playing for these clubs. The Sunday Times. Federal contracting systems modeled on those already in place in Ireland or New Zealand. Steve Borthwick, the new coach, can consult with the clubs and oversee them as they see fit.

The purpose of this move was to prevent English talent from flying abroad. Internationals Jack Willis and the highly-promising Henry Arundel were not really pleased with the French top 14. A former Wasps player, he originally signed with Toulouse last November. The second was signed for Racing 92 from London Irish this summer.

“I've said a few times before that England need the best players to play in England.”Danny Care repeated at a press briefing at the English base camp in Le Touquet. If there are ways to help club rugby and help clubs be more viable, we can get players into the squad.”, the 36-year-old scrum-half remains under contract with Harlequins. He believes that by “fixing” the best players on English soil, we are doing the Championship a disservice. “It's positive for everything, whether it's TV rights or stadium attendance.”Assures the player.

Limited by their salary cap, English teams risk prioritizing young local players in the future, which is not necessarily bad news for XV de la Rose. The English hopefuls will have more game time and will be up for selection sooner. There are other ways to secure funds, such as expanding the audience and reaching new audiences, especially women and youth. In this regard, a good run at the World Cup is certainly not too much.