RFU unveils new funding deal for Championship clubs

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Andrew aims for Championship stability

The Rugby Football Union has announced an increase in funding for the Championship over the next four seasons.

Clubs in English rugby's second tier will receive £345,000 this term rising to £380,000 by 2015-16.

RFU professional rugby director Rob Andrew says the funding provides security for clubs in the league.

"We've now got a four-year funding deal so they've got stability for the next four years," he told BBC Sport.

Clubs had been unhappy with their level of RFU funding, feeling they needed more money from the governing body in order to run their teams on a fully-professional basis.

"We were hoping for more," the chairman of Plymouth Albion, Graham Stirling, told BBC Sport.

"We are thankful for what we have been given, it is an improvement and it does help.

"We have some stability but it still doesn't come up to the level that we would all like," Stirling added.

Most clubs in the second tier have wealthy benefactors bank rolling their clubs and would struggle to make ends meet without them.

Andrew agrees that in an ideal world the RFU would like to give more money to the 12 teams that make up the league, but in the current economic climate they cannot afford to do so.

"It's a challenge for everybody. The funding we put into the Premiership doesn't cover the costs of the Premiership clubs either," Andrew continued.

"The RFU can't pick up and fund the whole of the professional game.

"We feel they've got a good playing structure with the Championship and British and Irish Cup and there's only so much money to go around.

Clubs like Nottingham and Plymouth Albion have flirted with going bust in the past few seasons, but Andrew says the onus is on the clubs to balance their books.

"Clubs have to manage their businesses, they're privately owned and as with all businesses some get into financial difficulty and others don't.

"If you look at where the Championship is now compared to three or four years ago it's in a much better financial position.

"Ultimately people have to look after their costs and people have to manage their business."

Unlike the Premiership, which has a £20m title sponsorship deal with insurance company Aviva, there is no sponsor for the Championship.

Andrew says trying to get a company to put their name to the league is a key objective for him in the coming year.

"We're working on it. It's not an easy market at the moment, people will invest in a good product if they see value in that product.

"We're improving the teams in the Championship and we're working hard on finding a partner to come on and working with the Championship."

And clubs will have to have a minimum of 15 English qualified players in their match days squads this season, rising to 16 from next season.

"It's a breeding ground for young players, coaches and referees and it's obviously, a stepping stone for those clubs with ambition who want to go up to the Premiership.

"The big thing from the RFU point of view is we want to see young English players playing in the Championship whether they're on dual-registration from Premiership clubs or they come through the Championship."

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