Championship Rugby boss hits out at 'disastrous' response to Jersey Reds' collapse

Former England Rugby Union international and Championship chairman Simon Halliday has criticised the "disasterous developments" surrounding the collapse of Jersey Reds Credit: PA

Rugby Championship chairman Simon Halliday says "persistent uncertainty" over Rugby Football Union financial support for its second-tier sides has made it “impossible” for Jersey Reds’ investors to continue.

English club rugby’s bleak financial climate has claimed another victim after Jersey announced they have ceased trading.

The Reds won 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.

Players and staff at the Reds 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.

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

Jersey Reds' chairman, Mark Morgan, says he was "devastated" by the club ceasing trading Credit: ITV Channel

Former England international Halliday said: “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.

“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."

He continued: "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 RFU 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 which includes the claim that the Championship has been ‘fully informed’ of ongoing financial discussions about the future of the professional game."

The RFU Council is expected to discuss the future of Jersey Reds during a meeting on Friday 29 September Credit: ITV Channel

Jersey Reds chairman Morgan said: “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.

“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 the summer of 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 the massive effect this will have on all of them. It’s a very sad day.”

The Championship has faced an uncertain future since 2020, when the RFU completed two rounds of funding cuts.

In a statement, the RFU hit back, saying: “It is extremely disappointing that investors would take decisions at this early point in the season to place the club in such a position.

“Championship clubs had clear confirmation from the RFU on funding for the 2023/24 season, and we have been working with the Championship and Premiership Rugby on the new Professional Game Partnership and shape of Premiership 2 with funding levels to be confirmed at the end of this calendar year.

“The Championship has been fully involved in these discussions since February, which are aimed at stabilising and strengthening the professional game.”

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