Doncaster Knights' Championship rivals Jersey Reds latest rugby union club to go bust

Action from a Doncaster Knights v Jersey Reds clash in the Championship at Castle Park, Doncaster, back in 2021. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
Action from a Doncaster Knights v Jersey Reds clash in the Championship at Castle Park, Doncaster, back in 2021. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

The Reds – who play in the same division as Doncaster Knights – claimed their first RFU Championship title last season but after 11 years in the second tier and a decade as a professional outfit, they face liquidation unless emergency funding can be secured.

News of their likely demise comes after Gallagher Premiership clubs Wasps, Worcester and London Irish entered administration during the 2022-23 campaign, reducing the top flight to a 10-team competition.

Jersey’s collapse comes 24 hours before representatives of every club in Yorkshire is invited to take part in a conference at Doncaster Knights on Friday to discuss the future of the game in the county and beyond.

Players and staff at Jersey were told on Thursday morning that they would not receive their September salaries and that Friday night’s Premiership Rugby Cup tie against Cornish Pirates could not be fulfilled.

Chairman Mark Morgan criticised the game’s powerbrokers for failing to put into place a structure for the second tier that would have allowed the club to attract financing.

“We had been able to start the season and maintain sufficient funds to cover the summer, but regret that our conversations with potential new investors as well as existing ones have been unsuccessful,” Morgan said.

“At one stage at the end of last season it appeared there was a viable way forward for the second tier once the new Professional Game Agreement was implemented from summer 2024, but Championship clubs have been left in the dark since that point.

“This led to a growing fatigue among those who may have invested but could not be given any concrete assurance about when the new structure would come in or how it would be funded.

“There are a large number of players, coaches and other members of staff who have made huge contributions to the club in recent seasons and we regret that the massive effect this will have on all of them. It’s a very sad day.”

The Championship has faced an uncertain future from 2020, since when the Rugby Football Union has completed two rounds of funding cuts.

Simon Halliday, chairman of Championship Rugby, released a statement to express his sympathy to the club.

“This is a tragedy for Jersey Reds, its players, staff, fans and investors, and the Championship sends its sympathy to the club and everyone connected to it,” he said.

“It is a disaster that our current champions, a standard-bearer for our values as a league, have had to take this decision.

“Anyone who loves rugby should listen very carefully to the message being sent by the investors in Jersey Reds, through their decision to withdraw support, about the funding of the crucial second tier of the game.

“The message is that persistent uncertainty over central financial support from the RFU for our league has made it impossible for them to carry on. In essence, they have said: ‘if the governing body won’t commit to you, why should we?’

“The owners of and investors in all the Championship clubs have indeed taken note.

“The Rugby Football Union has been repeatedly warned that the government of the island of Jersey was concerned at the lack of financial commitment to the league in which the Reds played.

“The Championship’s owners and investors will also have noted that the Rugby Football Union’s response to this tragedy was to issue a statement blaming the investors in Jersey Reds and which includes the claim that the Championship has been “fully informed” of ongoing financial discussions about the future of the professional game.

“The owners and investors of the clubs will have more to say on this point and other aspects of today’s disastrous developments after the meeting of the RFU Council.”

Additional reporting Duncan Bech, PA News Agency