Kit Shepard reports on the reaction to ruling that neither Doncaster nor Ealing can go up to 2022-23 top flight
Premiership promotion decision criticised
The RFU has been criticised by players and coaches after announcing that there would be no promotion to the 2022-23 Premiership from the Championship.
Doncaster Knights and Ealing Trailfinders were both pursuing a spot in the Gallagher Premiership should they top the English second tier this season, but they both failed to meet the Minimim Standards Criteria.
The fact that no team will be promoted to the top flight at the end of this season has drawn backlash on social media.
England and Harlequins prop Joe Marler said on Twitter: “Stuck in the dark ages still. Apparently they would rather not grow the game.”
Jersey back-row Guy Thompson also took to Twitter, labelling the outcome “predictable”.
The former Wasps, Leicester and Ealing player added: “This is a really poor decision. [There are] greedy owners that want to keep a monopoly on it.”
Ampthill player Charlie Beckett also highlighted that both Ealing and Doncaster’s grounds have been used to host elite women’s fixtures in recent years.
What are Premiership’s average attendances?
As part of the Premiership’s Minimum Standards Criteria, clubs must host games in a stadium that can hold at least 10,001 spectators.
This is to ensure the ground falls under the remit of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, regulated by the Government and the Green Guide.
Neither Doncaster nor Ealing could meet this requirement, with both clubs’ home grounds having a capacity of around 5,000.
Despite both suggesting they could expand facilities, no formal planning permissions are in place and the RFU board ratified the recommendation that neither team could be promoted.
Mike Friday, USA Sevens head coach, questioned whether the authorities did enough to help either club.
“I am surprised these two stadiums didn’t or couldn’t meet the standards by the start of next season with a little assistance,” he tweeted.
Mike Denbee, who played for promoted side London Welsh during the 2012-13 Premiership season, questioned the need for a minimum capacity.
“When London Welsh went up we played at the Kassam Stadium in a three-quarters empty stadium just to meet RFU criteria,” he tweeted.
“How good would it be for Doncaster Knights and Ealing Trailfinders to sell out their ground every home game, generating revenue for the club? The atmosphere would be awesome.”
While the 13 clubs currently in the Premiership have the minimum capacity required (Saracens have dispensation to reduce their capacity while the StoneX Stadium is redeveloped), the average attendances this season also highlight that five clubs fall well below that 10,001 marker.
Stadium shares are common in the Premiership, with Wasps, Bristol, London Irish and Sale currently sharing a ground with other sports clubs.
Similarly, Wasps, London Irish and Saracens have all switched their home ground in the past decade.
Bill Sweeney, the RFU’s chief executive, said: “The RFU and PRL (Premiership Rugby) would welcome a Championship club being promoted to create a 14-team Premiership league.
“The RFU and PRL would like to support and encourage all Championship clubs to continue to develop proposals for the expansion and development of their grounds, including submitting formal planning applications.”
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