By Sean Phelan
In the past few weeks, through reading in the press (and rumblings from within), it would appear that the relationship between the Rugby Football Union (the RFU) and our Grassroots game is not all that rosy.
A series of budgetary and staff cuts are reportedly taking place within the offices of the RFU, effecting many people involved in the grassroots level of our beloved sport. Alex Lowe (as quoted in The Sunday Times LINK) has reported that up to 66 RFU office staff will be made redundant These cuts will be made from within our Grassroots game, which will have an enormously negative impact on the growth and sustainability of the game.
It is widely understood the primary reason for these significant cuts is due to the redevelopment of the East Stand at Twickenham rugby stadium, where it is reported that it has gone over budget by some 100% (i.e., from a projected £40million to c. £80million) - was the redevelopment even necessary? The RFU must believe that it is more necessary than keeping our Grassroots game alive.
In an open letter from the Dorset & Wiltshire RFU to the RFU (LINK), they outlined many reasons how these reported budgetary and staff cuts will negatively impact a County like theirs.
I have picked out a few that stand out to me...
14. Smaller rugby clubs will not get the level of support they currently receive and need.
15. More rugby clubs will be put at risk, with some of the smaller clubs disappearing. The direct result of this is a reduction in the number of players playing the game.
16. The larger clubs will take all the support available from the front-line staff, leaving little –to-none for smaller or ‘at-risk’ clubs.
So, where does that leave our Clubs?
With the reductions in players playing, it becomes harder and harder to survive and we really need our grassroots clubs to survive and thrive. Our clubs need all the help that they can get. These recent cuts at the RFU could see a lot of the hard work put in by its volunteers, committees and players as well the RFU staff fall by the wayside because the RFU is not willing to support as much as they have been up to this point.
Fill Your Boots (FYB) has always been a Champion of Grassroots Rugby. We really want to support you and your clubs as much as we can.
Currently, there is no meaningful money being invested in FYB so unfortunately, we cannot help you in a financial sense (same as the RFU!!), however, we are supporting you in other ways! We can support you and your club by helping you secure extra players when you need them to make your game happen. We can also help you by promoting your training session, your recruitment activity and anything else you need to help promote your clubs.
At FYB we remain very proud to be involved with our amazing Grassroots game.
Update - 06/08/2018
A high up RFU source has confirmed to me that the reason behind the budget cuts is that the expected landscape for "Broadcasting & Sponsorship fees has considerably changed this year, and for the worse, therefore the cash flow available to invest in the game as a whole will be significantly less than previously predicted, even a few months ago."
"The investment in the East Stand, which brings match-day hospitality entirely under the control of the RFU with absolutely no increase in tickets available for that side, is financed entirely separately and when that is paid back the income from it will ensure that the investment in community rugby is greater than ever."