The original plan was to have a seven-team Premier Division starting in April. Every club has been geared up for that and it's why some Premier teams started pre-season a month early and will start playing friendlies this weekend. A lot of people have alluded to clubs being in trouble and the only one I was aware of was Hammersmith but I heard they'd turned a corner and were close to making it.
They have said publicly:
First their official site:
Hammersmith Hills Hoists Rugby League Football Club (HHHRLFC) is looking for a new major sponsor. With the Shepherds Bush Walkabout closing its doors for good there is a big hole that we need plugged. That is 20 + blokes drinking in your pub every saturday. No brainer.
If you think you can handle us please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be in touch.
Notes from their 29/1/14 AGM on their Facebook page:
Sponsorship: Major sponsor Walkabout Inn Shepherds Bush has closed down. The club is actively looking for a new major sponsor. Names mentioned include The Slug@Fulham, The Chatsworth and the Larrick Inn. The club will also need smaller sponsors to fill recommit (Vibe, Anglo Pacific, First Festival)
Twyford Oval now has a new manager and we will need to build a new relationship with them.
Social Media: Facebook page, twitter and hotmail account all in need of owner.
Promotional material: Club needs to build player base again, options included business cards and flyer hand out days.
Discussion centered around the realisation that if we do not get a sponsor we will either have to fold or drop down to London League. We will push for sponsorship first then make a decision in the coming month.
They gave themselves a deadline of the end of February to get their ducks in a row and they obviously couldn't make it happen. I was told they'll either have to play in the Entry League (where they'll be able to play D1 sides on bye weeks and play the two brand new Entry League sides on their doorstep) or fold.
From my understanding, the club themselves haven't been doing so well. They barely played a seconds game last season but they were virtually the Walkies pub team and that papered over the cracks. Walkabout were covering the costs and, I was told, players were not paying subs or membership. As far as I'm aware, the council and police essentially forced the pub to be sold due to it being a crime hotspot, else they'd close it down, Without that backing, they were self-admittedly left with a dwindling player base, a poor relationship with their home ground and poor off-field admin.
I've said before that there's two models in London; Firstly, go to the suburbs, try and pair up with a local RU club and build up slowly or secondly, go where the players are and get immediate success. The problem with the latter is that the costs are very high, maybe even beyond memberships and subs. You're also relying on a transient player base that are coming to this country in ever-decreasing numbers. Less Antipodeans means less Antipodean-owned businesses and less potential sponsorships for these clubs. I hope they make it through, rebuild this year in the Entry League and have a crack at Division 1 next season. However, my worry is that this is not only the end of an era, it's also the end of a business plan.