London Welsh’s clear defeat at Kingston Park to Newcastle Falcons (38-7) may not look so bad compared to some of their beatings. Recent humiliations include leaking 78 points at Saracens, 71 at Adams Park to Wasps, and a 50 point thrashing at home to Exeter. Yet the Falcons loss will sting more than ever.
With a daunting run-in of fixtures left, Newcastle were the side closest to them at the bottom of the table, and was the last realistic chance to ignite their campaign. I actually predicted them to stay up at the beginning of the season, but sadly, they don’t look near to being ready for this level.
But were London Welsh given a fair chance? Or does our current league structure hinder the progress of ambitious championship teams? Sides have managed to live beyond promotion in recent seasons (such as Exeter and Newcastle), but the current London Welsh side illustrate what can happen under the current English league structure. Here are three vital changes to be made, to insure that promoted Premiership teams can add competitiveness to the competition.
Provide a fair amount of funding
MP Gareth Thomas, a London Welsh supporter, has talked about the difficulties his chosen club have faced. He claimed the Exiles received just 30% of the funding that established Premiership clubs received by Premiership Rugby. If this is the case, then the current funding system is a huge barrier to a competitive league.
New sides are expected to build a Premiership-standard squad, with just a fraction of the capital provided. It’s indisputably clear; that is unfair. It is time to give the new boys a fair chance in the marketplace each season, especially when sides like Bath can splash the cash on Sam Burgess types. Yes, that was yet another mention of Sam Burgess…
Make the Championship earlier
The BT Sport build-up to the Welsh Vs Falcons game saw Lawrence Dallaglio give his opinion on this issue. The former England captain posed a solid solution. He highlighted the brief period of time promoted sides have to prepare in the off season compared to the big boys. It’s a fair point, London Welsh didn’t know they were in the championship until 4th June in 2014.
In comparison, the Premiership Final was the 31st May, and the majority of teams knew their fate even before that. It forced London Welsh into a far more rushed off-season than the big boys. Dallaglio’s idea was to start, and therefore end the Championship season earlier. It seems like a hugely effective idea, as it would provide the Championship winners the precious minutes they deserve to prepare.
Abolish the Championship play-offs
Currently, the championship concludes with a semi-final, and final of the teams who finished in the top 4 of the championship. A side could stroll through the season undefeated, but slip up in these playoffs, and not get promoted. It provides an exciting end to the season, but did it help add quality to the Premiership this season? Bristol finished with the same amount of wins as London Welsh in last season’s championship, but finished 8 points ahead at the top of the table.
Not only did they finish top, but they had the arrivals of Matthew Morgan, Dwayne Peel, and Anthony Perinese in the waiting. Kudos to London Welsh, they slayed the favourites in the Final, but one must question whether the South-West side could have been more competitive. The step from the Championship to the Premiership is huge, so we need the most consistent of championship titans to face the challenge. To ensure that, we need the playoffs stopped, and the league leaders obtaining automatic promotion.
Sadly, the writing is on the wall for the Exiles, but if we can reform our league structure, hopefully we won’t witness another London Welsh fiasco in the future.