London Welsh have been told they will not be considered for promotion to the premiership due to the fact, as I understand it, that due to the fact that there ground ‘doesn’t meet requirements’ and a projected ground-share with Oxford United would not give them ‘primacy of tenure’ at the Kassam Stadium.
This echo’s the Pirates plight, as their ground again doesn’t meet specs, and a ground-share hasn’t materialised (I think they were in talks with Plymouth Argyle, but can’t remember the facts).
Now I have no affinity to London Welsh, but I remember them being around when I was a kid and being a competitive side. They are looking to get back to the big time, Pirates are looking to give Cornwall a top flight team, over the years there have been several top flight Cornish players, but they’ve never had a ‘home’ club to play for in the Premiership!
The problem I have with this, is that Bath’s ground, The Rec, is doubtful that it would pass the criteria for promotion, yet they are allowed to be a premiership side. Saracens, Wasps, London Irish all share with football clubs, whereas Harlequins share with a Super League team (though Quins are the primary tenants) and Newcastle can’t play home games on the same matchdays as Newcastle United due to policing issues and yet this is all fine and dandy with the RFU.
My theory behind this is…. in the southwest of England there is Gloucester, Bath and Exeter, in the Southeast there are Wasps, Quins, Irish, and Saracens, the midlands has Tigers, Worcester and Saints and the entire North of England has Sale and Falcons. If you were to take Falcons down and bring in Pirates or Welsh, that would leave just Sale north of Leicester, so is this ‘ring fencing’ to do with that maybe? Are the RFU worried that they will lose their ‘Northern Exposure’? I wonder if the RFU were hoping that Wasps would go down and avoid this issue…
Also, is it not slightly fishy that the Falcons sign on Dean Richards, Rory Lawson, Del Fava, MacLeod, Tuipolotu, Tomaszczyk, Higgins and Crockett, a mighty good selection of players for a championship club to sign, so either someone has done a GREAT job of upselling the club or they KNEW they weren’t going down.
I don’t really want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but this has huge ramifications for players, clubs, fans and owners and it needs to be made clear what has gone on. There needs to be a level playing field, and if the championship clubs can’t go up, then surely the premiership clubs need to sort out their grounds to meet premiership specifications. I know Sarries and Bath have plans for their new stadia, but the rest seem content to stay put in half empty stadiums.