An update from the Board
We hope everyone is staying safe during these difficult times and we would like to thank you for your continued support for Nottingham Rugby.
It is a little over two months since we first received the bombshell from Bill Sweeney and the RFU with regards the 50% funding cuts for the Championship next season, with no guarantee of funding thereafter. With the arrival of Covid-19, attentions shifted rightly to this season – both for our National Governing Body, but also every rugby club across the country.
The RFU confirmed the end of our season, but with it, that they would honour the current funding agreement to the end of June 2020. We also had confirmation we would finish 6th and share the semi-final spoils from the Championship Cup. Thereafter, we haven’t heard anything further as to whether we can expect them to commit to the revised offer they made for next season, or whether we can expect more in this time of need, or even less! We are expecting an update very soon.
With regards Nottingham, a combination of the funding cuts and the significant loss of earnings this season, we had no choice but to act quickly. Unfortunately, we have had to make three of the back-office team redundant and one left on his own accord. Rugby wise, we have furloughed all playing and most support staff. Overall, we have retained the services of Steve Smith (COO), Ash Willis (Marketing & Comms), Neil Fowkes (Head Coach), David Ross (Assistant & NTU Coach) and our groundsman – John Fox, to ensure we can continue to operate and look ahead to next year.
Looking further ahead, we have started to consider what a properly funded ‘Championship’ level league could look like. The RFU has publicly stated that they don’t see themselves funding this level of rugby in the future, so if that stance continues and we want to maintain a professional league, we need to look elsewhere for money. This is part of our future strategy, but not one that will be enacted in time for next season.
So, what might our next 12 months look like?
The board has been meeting weekly (virtually) to try to get us to a budget that we know we can deliver, but one that retains our status as a rugby club with a professional licence. This is vitally important as we see next season as a year of transition to a different future. Based upon the expected RFU funding cuts and a reduction in what we can expect from sponsorship, season ticket sales, matchday and event incomes, at the moment, our best forecast for next year shows a loss of 40% against our original budget for this season.
Our target presents a challenge, particularly given so many unknowns at the moment, but we have to start somewhere; and we believe we have produced an achievable, but affordable budget.
With this revised income, we have no choice, but to adopt a different rugby model. Next season will see us retaining our status as a professional rugby club, but on a much more part-time basis, with all players combining their rugby for Nottingham with other jobs. Training will move to evenings, with our matches being mostly played on Friday nights as they are at the moment, in order to maximise our income opportunity.
We will put as many players onto retained contracts as we can and have targeted a number of the existing squad, aiming to secure them Championship rugby, but also local employment, in any area that will add to their CV’s. This will be supported by the continuation of our excellent relationships with Nottingham Trent University and several Premiership rugby clubs, who will assist us, by supplementing our existing squad with a number of students and dual registered players. We have a number of plans in place already and are confident we will be able to secure loan players from the Premiership, combined with a proven pathway from NTU, that will at least match what we have at the moment.
We are also seeking to retain the key elements of what playing rugby for Nottingham means. We are pleased to confirm that Head Coach Neil Fowkes will be staying with us and we plan to retain the bulk of our coaching and support staff. We will be trying to maintain the best possible professional environment around rugby, whereby players can thrive, providing them with an opportunity to develop their skills and a platform to make the step-up to a fully professional contract.
Nottingham is one of only two cities offering Championship rugby outside of London. In a league where several other clubs will be playing semi-professionally next season, not only can we offer a high-quality coaching and support environment, but we believe we can provide more employment opportunities in the local community and our players can enjoy the lifestyle that a vibrant city like Nottingham offers.
We are also blessed with two fantastic city-based universities in Nottingham Trent and The University of Nottingham and combined with a third, specialist sports university in Loughborough, players have the opportunity to combine playing Championship rugby with first-class higher education.
We see next season as very much a transition year. It will either be a move towards a fully part-time model with no funding for a second-tier professional league, or it will be a stop-gap, as we take a little more time to plan what the future might be for a properly-funded Championship-level league.
How can you help?
You will have heard this before, but the current situation is undoubtedly the biggest challenge Nottingham Rugby has ever faced and we need your support more than ever.
We are seeking local employment, coaching and educational opportunities for our players, in a number of different fields. If you can help with known job vacancies, please get in touch.
We will also be having to work harder off the field, with a smaller team. In the current climate, we understand many of our sponsors, season ticket holders and supporters will be facing their own challenges, but if you feel you can offer any help financially, or know anyone who can, however small a contribution that might be, please do get in touch.
The next 12 months are going to be tough, but they are for almost everyone across the entire world. Life will be different, playing and watching rugby will be different, the sporting landscape will be different. We have started to look forward, so that when do we emerge from the current situation, Nottingham Rugby is well placed to be able to adapt to the change.
We haven’t got all the answers just yet, but we’re open for business and would very much like to start the conversation.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of this update, please get in touch with one of the board.
Please stay safe and we wish you all the best for the future.
The Nottingham Rugby Board