Cornish Pirates' Dicky Evans labels RFU actions 'deplorable' after Championship funding cut
Pirates owner says the way club was informed by email was "very unprofessional"; Evans disagrees with claim that Championship is not doing enough to develop players
By Sky Sports Rugby Union
Last Updated: 13/02/20 5:09pm
Cornish Pirates owner Dicky Evans has labelled the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and its handling of the decision to cut Championship funding by nearly 50 per cent as "deplorable" and "unprofessional."
It was announced on Wednesday that funding to Championship clubs would be reduced to approximately £288,000 per club from next season after a number of "objectives and deliverables" were not achieved.
The new agreement will see the governing body return funding to pre-2016 levels - before the current agreement was put in place.
Evans, who has been involved with the Pirates since 1995, outlined how his club were informed via email and the impact that the decision made by RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney and co will have.
"The way it's been handled has been deplorable," Evans exclusively told Sky Sports.
"It's been like sacking somebody on text. Awful stuff, very unprofessional.
"At 8.15am on Tuesday, my chairman Paul Durkin went into his emails and found an email from the RFU, which wasn't even confidential, that this Bill Sweeney was basically saying: 'This is it, funding down by 60 per cent', no discussion, nothing else at all.
"It's how we've been informed. We knew something was coming but it's how we were informed. It's been a deplorable way to handle something, and really, we despair because we've done a hell of a lot at the Pirates."
Sweeney explained in a statement that funding had been cut owing to a lack of return on the increased investment, and argued the Championship do not play a key role in developing players for the England team.
That, however, is something Evans vehemently disagrees with.
"We've (the Championship) produced loads - it's like a supermarket down there," he said.
"I've got a list as long as your arm of people who have come up through the Championship into the Premiership.
"Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie started their careers at the Pirates. Dave Ward went onto Harlequins and then into the England Saxons team, Phil Burgess went into the Sevens team.
"Sam Simmonds came to us a raw chap one year, played for us full-time in the second year and I said to Tony Rowe at Exeter: 'That guy will play for England one day', I didn't realise it would be six weeks after he left us.
"So to say the Championship has done nothing for English rugby is rubbish. We've done a hell of a lot.
"Facts are not part of the story apparently."
Sweeney, who has been RFU CEO since May 2019, also argued that such a cut would "not be the deciding factor for clubs with aspirations for promotion."
In terms of specifics, RFU funding for each Championship team has gone down from £550,000 each to £288,000 per club, while Premiership funding to the league has been reduced from £1.7m to £850,000 (a fall from £141,666 per club to just north of £70,000 each).
Funding per club in total has essentially halved therefore from around £691,666 to £359,000.
"In our case, about 15 per cent (has been lost)," Evans said.
"Between travel, backroom staff and coaches etc, our budget is about £2.2m in total. So for us, we've lost around 15 per cent from that. Other clubs will be different.
"We had a budget for new players for next season which we won't be able to go for now."
Many have taken this latest turn of events to be a form of ring-fencing the Premiership via the back-door, making it impossible for Championship clubs to progress.
Evans, in response, is seeking to put plans in place to change the nature of Championship funding and promotion too.
"It has been that way for some time [back-door ring-fencing]," he said.
"Now we've got a situation where there's a salary cap in the Premiership and we're going to actually propose a salary cap of £2.5m in our league at the next clubs meeting, and to go back to the playoffs, which we banned in 2016 after we got the funding from the RFU.
"And that cap would be for everybody, including Saracens of course.
"We can get the playoffs back with a vote, but whether they'd agree to a salary cap of £2.5m will be a different problem for us. But why not?"