Championship side Jersey Reds have considered quitting English rugby in order to join France’s league structure following the latest funding cuts to Championship clubs by the Rugby Football Union.
While there would be significant logistical hurdles to overcome for such a move to transpire, the fact that Jersey have at least gone as far as exploring the possibility highlights the severity of the situation England’s second-tier clubs currently find themselves in, after funding from the RFU was cut from £450,000 two years ago to just £80,000 this season.
By contrast second division teams in France receive around £2 million from the national governing body, the Ligue Nationale de Rugby, making any possible move an enticing prospect for Jersey who are geographically based closer to France than England, although the actual process of joining the LNR clubs would prove extremely complicated.
The club’s chairman Mark Morgan told the Jersey Evening Post: “It is an idea we’ve looked at before, but logistically it is a problem. We’re much closer to France geographically than we are to England but it just won’t work at the moment, and the reason it won’t work is that even before Covid, there just aren’t the linkages into France.
“I’m also not convinced either that currently the French would be too interested in having an English RFU team in their league structure.”
Jersey are currently seventh in the Championship this season and have been part of English rugby’s second division since 2012. Recent players for the club include Wales internationals Kieran Hardy and Callum Sheedy, plus England prop Harry Williams.
As reported by Telegraph Sport earlier this week, Championship clubs are not expecting any increase in funding for the upcoming 2021/22 season, leaving most teams attempting to assemble their squads based on “a worst-case scenario”.
Jersey announced on Thursday that nine players have been released ahead of next season, including veteran centre Apakuki Ma’afu who is retiring, while six loan players from Premiership clubs will also leave the club. Jersey play their final game of the season against Cornish Pirates this weekend.