England supporters urged to take stand against Championship cuts

Gerard Meagher
Photograph: Alex Davidson/Getty Images

England supporters have been urged to take a stand against the Rugby Football Union’s swingeing 50% cuts to the Championship’s funding during Sunday’s Six Nations match against Ireland.

In a move that could cause great embarrassment to the RFU, supporters have also been encouraged to carry out a two-minute applause at this weekend’s matches across the country to thank “supporters, players, coaches, volunteers and the rest of the rugby community should not be forgotten”, in an open letter from the Nottingham chairman, Alistair Bow.

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“Without community clubs and the National Leagues, the Championship would not survive and more importantly, neither would Twickenham,” writes Bow. “It’s the people in these clubs that support rugby, it’s these people that fill the stadium during internationals. [The RFU chief executive] Bill Sweeney may well need reminding of this when England host Ireland at the weekend.

“I will be one of the thousands lucky enough to be there on Sunday, cheering on England and helping prop up the RFU coffers, but it will be all the people that support rugby in the community that I will be thinking of. I will be showing my support and I hope the rest of the rugby community will too.

“Before I head to Twickenham, I will be at The Bay, where Nottingham host Doncaster Knights on Friday. At half-time, we will be standing and carrying out a two-minutes applause, thanking everyone involved in rugby for keeping the game alive. So, please show your support at the weekend, regardless of when and what time you are playing, take a picture, share on social media and let’s show that rugby is for the many and not the few.”

The funding cuts, set to be enforced from next season, are expected to have a devastating impact on Championship clubs and lead to hundreds of job losses and there remains considerable anger towards the RFU’s decision and its timing.

“Having now listened and read Bill’s further press statements, my opinion has not changed,” adds Bow. “I see someone who comes over very uncaring, particularly for a man in his position as CEO of our governing body. His explanation about the rationale for the cuts being that the Championship clubs had failed to meet ‘a set of objectives and deliverables’, is nothing more than a smokescreen.”

Meanwhile Joe Launchbury has warned England that Ireland will arrive at Twickenham with a feel-good factor instilled by their new head coach, Andy Farrell. “I always knew him as a really energetic coach who spoke really well,” added Launchbury, having been coached by Farrell when he was one of Stuart Lancaster’s assistants.

“Obviously as a captain he spoke extremely emotively and passionately. You have to have a level of detail as well. It reminds me a lot of Owen here, because they are very similar in lots of ways, in terms of delivery of message. One thing Ireland certainly do seem now is confident.”