Statement by the Championship Clubs

Statement by the Championship Clubs after the RFU Council meeting on Friday June 14th, 2024

The Championship has today (Friday) won the right to a realistic chance of promotion to the top-tier of the game and taken control of its destiny with the creation of a new, independently-chaired Tier 2 Board of governance. 

The RFU Council today approved a promotion and relegation deal that the Championship clubs have been fighting for since the beginning of 2023. 

The deal means that in order to be eligible for promotion, the minimum operating standards have been relaxed to make them more achievable and the deadline for achieving those standards will be spread over four seasons. Full details will be announced in due course. 

Previously, the terms and conditions of entry had been unacceptable to Championship clubs, because the amount of investment needed and the shorter timetable made them impracticable to a potential promotion candidate.  

In its meeting today, the RFU Council also approved the new Tier 2 Board, a body with an equal representation of Championship and RFU members, chaired by an independent person. That Board will take decisions affecting the commercial exploitation of the second-tier league, hence allowing our clubs to make the most of their marketing, media and broadcasting rights. 

The clubs believe these changes herald a new era for the professional game in England. They set the current 12 clubs – and all those who wish one day to join them – onto a brighter footing. 

With an agreed pathway to promotion, many of the current league’s clubs will now start the planning and investment that will give them a fighting chance to be the first non-P shareholder to reach the Premiership since London Welsh in 2014.  

Simon Halliday, chairman of the Championship, said after the RFU Council’s vote: “We have got what we came for. Now our clubs – and every club – can realistically dream of promotion to the Premiership. 

“There is now a genuine path for ambitious clubs to rise; the top tier is reconnected to the rest of the English rugby and we can use our commercial potential to fund the growth that rugby sorely needs at our level. 

“This is a result that brings common resolve to our sport, guaranteeing that English rugby remains open and fair from the lowest league to the highest.” 

 

PolarCool signs with Doncaster Knights

PolarCool AB (publ) has entered into a two-year agreement with the English Championship Rugby team, Doncaster Knights, for the use of the PolarCap® System. The agreement marks PolarCool’s first entry into the English Championship, the second professional tier of English Rugby.

PolarCool develops and markets the product PolarCap®, which alleviates the effects of concussions. The primary users of PolarCap® include sports clubs, organizations, and facilities in contact sports such as ice hockey, rugby, football, and handball, but also other sports with an increased risk of concussion.

The agreement with Doncaster Knights represents an important entrance into the second professional tier in English rugby. Despite low budgets in English Championship Rugby, Doncaster Knights’ prioritization of providing treatment with PolarCap® shows their commitment to player welfare and advancing the care of their athletes.

PolarCool’s CEO Erik Andersson comments:

-We are thrilled to partner with Doncaster Knights to introduce PolarCap® into the English Championship. This agreement shows our shared commitment to player safety and well-being. We look forward to supporting the Knights in advancing concussion management in rugby.

Sir Ian McGeechan, Doncaster Knights’ Director of Rugby, has been instrumental in the team providing the treatment. Sir Ian McGeechan is a renowned figure in rugby, known for his successful coaching career with the British and Irish Lions, as well as his extensive experience and contributions to the sport.

For more information

Erik Andersson –  CEO PolarCool AB (publ.)               
+46 – 738 60 57 00                                         
E-mail: erik.andersson@polarcool.se 

About PolarCool AB (publ.)

PolarCool AB (publ.) is a medical device company that develops, markets, and sells products for sports medicine. The company focuses on treatment of concussive and sub-concussive brain injury with the portable cooling device PolarCap® System. PolarCool AB (publ.) is based in Lund, Sweden, and its shares are listed on Spotlight Stock Market.

Girls Love Rugby Sessions at Doncaster Knights

Doncaster is part of the RFU’s national Love Rugby Campaign for Girls. 
 
We are inviting all Girls aged 9+ to attend our FREE sessions, we welcome all with or without rugby experience to attend. Join us Now!
 
Dates: 
Tuesday 11th June
Tuesday 18th June
Tuesday 25th June
Tuesday 2nd July
6.30pm- 7-30pm
 
Castle Park, Armthorpe Road, DN25QB
T:01302 831388
 
Love Rugby is a campaign to give girls a voice and raise visibility that rugby union is a game where they belong.  
 
We want girls to have the belief and confidence that rugby is for them. 
 
We need to support girls to be active.  Some girls are try-scoring superstars, some are just beginning their rugby journey and others are happy playing touch rugby at school with their mates.  
 
It doesn’t matter, we want them to know that rugby is where you find happiness, fulfilment and a team that will feel like family. 

New Signing | Ramasibana Signs for the Knights

Taniela Ramasibana has officially signed with Doncaster Knights, making the move from French side, USA Perpignan. 

Ramasibana is a 23-year-old Fijian-born player who spent his early career developing his rugby at Top 14 side, Perpignan, as a flanker and second row. At a towering 1.95m tall and weighing around 105kg, Ramasibana is sure to make an impact for the Knights on his physical prowess alone.

During the 2022/23 season, he made several appearances in both the Top 14 league and the Challenge Cup, demonstrating his maturity and ability at only 21-years-old at the time, and even found himself on the scoresheet on two occasions. He also represented the Fijian national team at Under-20 level.

Taniela Ramasibana is a bit of an unknown entity amongst English fans, but head coach, JoeFord, and the rest of the Knights coaching staff believe there is plenty of unlocked talent herefor what promises to be an exciting debut season in English rugby.

With versatility to play both second and back row, Ramasibana will be hoping to aid the team in their efforts of bettering the past seasons performances, both defensively and offensively. Joe Ford has expressed his delight in the new addition to the squad, stating how his physicality and mobility round the pitch should add a cutting edge in the Knights’ charge for the upcoming season.

Taniela is available for sponsorship for the 2024/25 season – For more information, please contact Tom Foy at tomfoy@castle-park.co.uk or Tracey Owen at towen@castle-park.co.uk

New Signing | Chapman Signs for the Knights

Ben Chapman has officially signed with Doncaster Knights, making the move from Ampthill RFC. 

Chapman is an English rugby player who primarily plays as a hooker. Standing 1.82 meters tall and weighing 102 kg, he has made a mark with his physical presence and skills on the field. Chapman has played for Cardiff University RFC and Ampthill Rugby before his recent move to Doncaster Knights​.

During the 2023-2024 season with Ampthill, Chapman participated in the Premiership Rugby Cup, where he featured in five matches, his performances included significant minutes on the field, showcasing his reliability and endurance as a player​.

Ben Chapman is known for his versatility and capability to make impactful plays, which Doncaster Knights hope to leverage in their upcoming campaign. His signing is seen as a significant addition to the Knights’ squad for the upcoming season. Joe Ford, the head coach of Doncaster Knights, has expressed high expectations for Chapman, highlighting his potential to make a substantial impact on the team.

Joe Ford commented on Chapman’s signing, emphasizing Chapman’s versatility and ability to bring a new dynamic to the squad. Ford noted that Chapman’s agility and quickness would be invaluable assets, particularly in our offensive strategies​. Ford’s, optimism reflects a strategic move to strengthen the team’s capabilities and overall performance for the 2024-25 campaign.

Chapman’s career has been marked by his adaptability and consistent performances, making him a promising player for the Knights as they aim to compete at higher levels in the Championship. His transition from Ampthill to Doncaster is expected to be seamless, given his professional experience and the supportive environment fostered by the Knights’ coaching staff​.

Ben is available for sponsorship for the 2024/25 season – For more information, please contact Tom Foy at tomfoy@castle-park.co.uk or Tracey Owen at towen@castle-park.co.uk

NEW SIGNING | STRONG Signs for the Knights

Morgan Strong has officially signed with the Doncaster Knights, joining the team for the upcoming season.

Strong, a back-row forward, brings considerable experience from his previous stint at Ospreys and Ampthill. This signing is part of Doncaster’s efforts to strengthen our squad as we aim for success in the RFU Championship.

Strong’s addition is expected to bolster the Knights’ forward pack, providing both depth and skill. The club has been actively rebuilding and reinforcing our squad, especially following significant new signings in George Wacokecoke and Logovi’i Mulipola. 

The former Ampthill captain was also recognised as Ampthill’s Player of the Season during the 2023-24 campaign.

Doncaster Knights’ Head Coach, Joe Ford, expressed his excitement about the signing of Morgan Strong. Ford highlighted Strong’s impressive physical attributes and versatility, emphasizing how his addition will bolster the squad. Ford believes Strong’s dynamic playing style and experience will be invaluable as the team aims to strengthen its position in the league. He praised Strong’s work ethic and potential to make a significant impact both on and off the pitch.

Morgan is available for sponsorship for the 2024/25 season – For more information, please contact Tom Foy at tomfoy@castle-park.co.uk or Tracey Owen at towen@castle-park.co.uk

STATEMENT BY THE CHAMPIONSHIP CLUBS

The Championship Clubs have recently been issued with a deadline by the RFU to accept certain terms or effectively be removed from the current professional game structure. 

After nearly two years of discussion, which have been characterised by the RFU agreeing positions, sometimes unilaterally or in separate negotiations on the Professional Game Partnership (PGP) – from which we have been excluded – we have now been presented with a proposition which we cannot accept as to do so would risk potential bankruptcy for Championship clubs and would also further isolate the Premiership to the detriment of the game in England. 

Like anyone who wants to see the game grow, we need to challenge the current RFU position.

To be clear, we have always aspired towards a new Tier 2 league as part of a whole-game solution, but this can only work if there is appropriate governance, a credible and equitable approach to promotion and relegation, and a funding model which will support growth and sustainability.

At present, we are far from that. 

The facts are clear:

1/ The incoming RFU executive cut Championship funding in 2019 without warning or any proper explanation from £645,000 to £325,000 a year, and again to £150,000 when the pandemic hit. These cuts forced clubs to appeal to the Government for emergency loans to keep playing rugby and supporting our community activities. The promise to reinstate pre-pandemic funding of £325,000 was never fulfilled, leaving many of our clubs with significant government debt. 

This is in stark contrast to the comprehensive approach the RFU took with regard to Premiership loans and negotiating repayment schedules with the Government.

These funding cuts were neither evidence-based nor a subject for discussion. They came from arbitrary decisions that left the Championship clubs in a precarious position. The clubs have worked hard to maintain standards (highlighted by the creditable performances of many of our clubs in the recent Premiership Cup), but the reality is that the status quo has created existential challenges for clubs in key areas of the country (eg Cornwall. See the recent statement by Cornish Pirates).

The current RFU proposal for 2024 and beyond is £4m pa, to be shared among a 12-club league.

This is purportedly intended to provide sustainability, to help grow the league and bridge the gap with the Premiership. But it comes nowhere close to achieving that, by our assessment.

An overwhelming percentage of this is value-in-kind (VIK) and would be centrally allocated across various areas. In a spirit of good faith, we continue to debate and discuss the best way to distribute any agreed funds.

By contrast, the cash amount rumoured to be allocated by the RFU to the Premiership in the PGP is £33m pa to be distributed among 10 clubs, a significant uplift from the previous agreement.  

2/ Promotion and Relegation is an essential feature and underlying principle of sport in this country.

A ‘ringfenced’ Premiership undermines that principle, and increases the risk that people lose interest in the game. We think that everyone accepts and acknowledges that.

The current proposals include a playoff for promotion from the Championship, but the current and significant imbalance, including highly onerous and mandatory minimum operating standards, precludes any Tier 2 club from being able to participate meaningfully in that playoff, let alone be promoted and be sustainable thereafter.

By way of example, the current ground-capacity requirements would result in expenditure of many millions by a club with no guarantee of promotion and, if they win the league, investment that would have to take place while simultaneously attempting to grow the business. 

A more equitable way is through a progressive approach towards achieving a sustainable level, which we have proposed.

The imbalance is further underlined by the fact that the 10th club in the Premiership receives a pro rata share of the £33m, whereas the promoted club would not access anything like that number, receiving approximately £125k in comparison.

In stark terms, this is the outcome of these allocation decisions made by the RFU. They are inequitable and set a promoted club up for failure and immediate relegation. 

They are also far removed from a whole-game solution. An equitable bridge must be created to enable a promoted club to be competitive.

It is also important to note that the relegated club is entitled to access funds from the RFU and Premiership through its position as a Premiership shareholder. This allows it to maintain a very significant financial advantage over rival Tier 2 clubs and essentially guarantees promotion back, as has happened in 14 of the 16 seasons when promotion occurred. This is unfair and undermines the integrity of the leagues. 

We must find a mechanism which allows a relegated club to recover, rebuild and participate in Tier 2 on an equitable basis and, as stated above, to allow the promoted club to participate and prosper in the Premiership.

There is another way forward for professional rugby, and our role within it. That is why there is no choice for us but to challenge the current status quo. 

After 20 years of an unfair and broken structure, we have the opportunity to develop a new one.  It would be more affordable and progressive, and which would be in the interests of the whole of the game of rugby union in England. 

We have presented such proposals, to no effect so far.

3) Governance.

We do, of course, recognise the need for the RFU to administer the regulatory parts of the game.

For the new Tier 2 League to move forward, it will have a properly constituted and independently-chaired board which has the ability to make decisions to drive forward the commercial programme and overall strategy of the league. However, our clubs still have no meaningful representation on the new body which is to replace the Professional Game Board. This is a significant issue, because it separates the sport and further distances us from Professional Rugby matters. 

This cannot be right. We seek that representation.

We understand and support the need to stabilise the top tier of the game, but our clubs must properly be part of the structure.  We have supplied a pathway for 200 players many of whom are now household names (as well as numerous coaches, referees and administrators) to the very top of the game. That pathway must not be lost, because it underpins the game. The only route to that stability and sustainability is for the whole game to move forward together. The PGP is about the next eight years at a time when the game globally and nationally is changing rapidly, so this is a pivotal moment. 

If there are not changes now, it will be too late.

During our long negotiations with the RFU and PRL, there is much that has been agreed, such as the driving of minimum standards, but there are major points that have not been properly addressed and, in some cases, ignored. 

In the interests of the game in England, and for our own sustainability, we challenge the current proposals. 

We continue to seek urgent meetings with the Board to discuss our solutions, which we believe are deliverable and realistic. In that regard, The RFU Council, which is mandated to be guardians of the whole game and meets later this month, should intervene, request a review of our position, and help facilitate a whole-game solution, particularly in the matter of promotion and relegation.

 

Doncaster Knights Leavers 2023-24

Doncaster Knights can confirm that 21 players will leave the club now that the 2023-24 season has drawn to a close.

Club President Steve Lloyd, Thanked all players for their contribution at our End of Season Awards and made it very clear that they have friends for life here in Doncaster. 

In the forward pack, the departures will include, Evan Mintern, Andrew Foster, Cam Terry, Charlie Beckett, Karl Garside, Seb Nagle-Taylor, Harrison Courtney, Jack Digby, Tom Doughty, Ehize Ehizode, Fyn Brown, Corrie Barrett & Harry Wilson.

In the backline, the departures will include, George Simpson, Joe Margetts, Sam Olver, Billy McBryde, Joe Bedlow, Jack Metcalf, AJ Cant & Aloisi Vereimi.

Head coach, Joe Ford thanked all departing players for their contribution to the Knights shirt throughout their time at Castle Park.

NEW SIGNING | MULIPOLA SIGNS FOR THE KNIGHTS

Logovi’i Mulipola, the seasoned Samoan prop, has officially signed with the Doncaster Knights.

The 37-year-old brings a wealth of experience, having played for Leicester Tigers and Newcastle Falcons, and earned 33 caps for Samoa. Mulipola’s addition is expected to bolster the Knights’ front row, leveraging his extensive Premiership experience to enhance their competitive edge.

This move follows his recent stint with Saracens, where he was signed as injury cover. Known for his versatility, Mulipola can play both loosehead and tighthead prop positions, making him a valuable asset to any team. His robust playing style and vast experience are anticipated to significantly strengthen the Knights as they prepare for the upcoming season​.

Doncaster Knights’ head coach Joe Ford has expressed his enthusiasm about the signing of Logovi’i Mulipola. Ford highlighted Mulipola’s extensive experience and leadership qualities, which he believes will significantly benefit the team. He emphasised that Mulipola’s arrival brings a wealth of knowledge from his time in top-tier rugby, which will be invaluable both on and off the pitch. Ford is confident that Mulipola’s presence will help to develop younger players and strengthen the squad’s overall performance​.

Logovi’i is available for sponsorship for the 2024/25 season – For more information, please contact Tom Foy at tomfoy@castle-park.co.uk or Tracey Owen at towen@castle-park.co.uk

Job Vacancy | Media & Communications Officer

Doncaster Knights are currently looking for a Media & Communications Officer to join the team for the upcoming 2024-25 season and beyond.

A large part of the role will involve enhancing the fan engagement of the organisation and the community strategy to ensure that all Doncaster residents can relate.

As the first point of contact on all company media matters, the successful individual will be required to develop strong relationships with local and national press. 

The successful candidate will be target driven and have an ability to create and deliver media and communication campaigns that show a demonstrable return on investment.  

Key Responsibilities:

  • Media, PR and marketing strategies
  • Fan engagement projects
  • Brand development
  • Produce articles to update supporters on club news
  • Produce well-written match reports
  • Produce the digital matchday programme using digital software
  • Creation of match highlights
  • Work and engage with local and Rugby press
  • Manage the Doncaster Knights website
  • Manage all social media sites, including content planning and posting
  • Be able to create engaging media content 
  • Identify and promote ticket sales initiatives
  • Support the commercial team with sales opportunities and club partners to promote their activities

The successful candidate will ideally possess the following:

  • Proven track record in Media & Communications
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Strong time management skills
  • Ability to work on your own initiative
  • Experience of a similar role in professional sport is desirable

You can view the full job description here – Media & Communications Officer JD – Doncaster Knights Rugby Club.

Please note this vacancy will remain open until the position is filled. 

If you wish to be considered for the position, please send your CV, cover letter and salary expectations to the Head of Commercial, Tom Foy, tomfoy@castle-park.co.uk

NEW SIGNING | McGuire Signs for the Knights

Jasper McGuire has signed with the Doncaster Knights, bolstering our squad for the 2024-25.

McGuire, a loosehead prop, makes his move from Premiership Champions, Saracens. The loosehead has spent the 2023-24 season on loan at Ampthill developing his skills and gaining additional experience as a front rower in the Championship.

McGuire is a player that incoming forwards coach, Darren Fearn knows well having previously worked with him up at Newcastle University and through the English Universities programme. 

Doncaster Knights’ head coach Joe Ford has expressed his enthusiasm about the signing of Jasper McGuire. Ford highlighted McGuire’s “impressive physical presence and technical skills, noting that these attributes would significantly strengthen the team’s forward pack”. He also emphasised McGuire’s “potential for development and his eagerness to integrate into the squad, both of which align well with the club’s future ambitions.”

Ford, who has been with the Knights since 2020 and now transitioned to head coach in 2023, values not only McGuire’s on-field abilities but also his character and work ethic, which are essential for building a cohesive team environment. 

Jasper is available for sponsorship for the 2024-25 season – For more information, please contact Tom Foy at tomfoy@castle-park.co.uk or Tracey Owen at towen@castle-park.co.uk