Third tier clubs concern over funding cuts

There is a growing concern and frustration among Betfred League 1 clubs about the level of funding cuts that will be applied by the RFL to the third tier next season.

Clubs at all levels will face a reduction in central funding in 2022 as part of a lower TV deal, with London Broncos last week announcing a move to a part-time squad on the back of it.

But it is League 1 that will be hit hardest proportionately, with some clubs working on a projected 78 per cent funding cut ahead of the final confirmation from the RFL.

Coventry Bears owner Alan Robinson confirmed publicly that such a reduction could mean the end of his club as a professional operation, and others have since supported his view that the move is short-sighted.

Rochdale Hornets Chairman Andy Mazey has criticised the latest restructure proposals of two top divisions of 10, saying it will solve none of the sport’s underlying problems.

“The more you sit down and think hard about the 2×10’s, format or indeed any interim or short-term proposal, you realise it doesn’t address the issues with the sport at the highest level,” Mazey said.

“Once again it feels like we are kicking the can down the road and are simply shuffling the same old cards in a slightly different way in hope that things might change for the better.

“The second division is still the second division, whatever number of clubs it has and whatever you want to call it.

“Clubs in Super League pulling in 2-3,000 for games is utterly embarrassing.

“Super League’s inability to grow individually as clubs and collectively over a number of decades – whilst frittering away millions of pounds of the game’s valuable broadcast income on overseas coaches and players, rather than investing sufficiently in infrastructure, youth and communities or marketing the product adequately – is the real problem that needs solving.

“Does two 10s with a reduced Super League at the top of the pyramid with the same product, stadiums, clubs and players resolve anything?

“What’s happening at the base of the professional pyramid with people like Alan Robinson at Coventry busting a gut on a small amount of central funding (less than the average wage of a journeyman Super League player) to grow the sport is not the problem, yet some would argue that is the case.

“If it was an equitable cut – say 30 percent across the board – it would be more understandable. Instead the top are losing around 28 percent and we’re looking at 78 percent.

“A lot of people at this level of the game are very frustrated about it.”

Hunslet coach Alan Kilshaw fears the importance of the third tier is being underestimated by certain figures within the sport.

He said: “I feel there was a bit more of an uproar when the Championship clubs didn’t know what was happening, but that seems to have gone quiet now they know what they are doing.

“The League 1 clubs seem to have been left alone and there’s a lot of self-interest in the game.

“The way I see it, it will be very difficult to keep the players we have with the budgets that are being talked about.

“There are Championship clubs taking advantage of this – a couple of my better players have offers from there and they’ve had deadlines put on them.

“But we need a strong third tier because it’s a pyramid of players pushing through.

“We’ve got an idea of how we would approach it if the budgets are small, which will be younger, local players that we look to develop over the course of the season.

“But you’re in danger of getting close to National Conference standard.”

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