Demise of London Welsh is warning to rest of Championship - Justin Burnell

FOR all London Welsh's demise saves his side from a potential relegation fight, Rotherham Titans head coach Justin Burnell is not detracted from the bigger picture affecting the Championship competition's troubled state.

London Welsh in action against Rotherham earlier this season. Picture: James Hardisty.

The RFU declared Welsh’s position in the second-tier untenable on Tuesday after the famous club – which fell into liquidation last month before receiving a temporary licence – failed to prove they had a sound future financial plan.

Following on from that, the governing body announced yesterday all the Exiles’ remaining results and fixtures were now expunged and, subsequently, there would be no relegation in 2016-17.

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That, of course, certainly eased concerns for 10th-placed Rotherham and Richmond, in bottom, who meet each other on Saturday.

Rotherham Titans head coach Justin Burnell. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Titans are just six points above them while Welsh had climbed back up to 11th following a 20-point penalty deduction that left them at the foot in December.

The Championship will continue as a 12-team division next season with the National League One champions elevated as usual.

Welshman Burnell, who helped Welsh win promotion to the Premiership in 2014, told The Yorkshire Post: “Prior to this announcement about Welsh, a lot of people were building up our game with Richmond this Saturday, saying how we both really needed to win it.

“But the only way we’ve been preparing is seeing Richmond this weekend, then Bedford, Ealing plus Nottingham all at home; we’ve a more than realistic chance of winning all four.

Rotherham Titans head coach Justin Burnell. Picture: Scott Merrylees

“That’s no disrespect to any of them but we are looking for an improvement in 2017 and we see that happening from hereon in. So, we definitely won’t be pulling up the sunbeds now just because there’s no relegation.

“The whole Welsh situation, though, is sad. Unfortunately, what it does confirm is you’ve got to live within your means; a fantastic club, steeped in a ludicrous amount of history, is now gone.

“I’ve some brilliant memories from there but all those memories, all that history, everything achieved is now for nothing. I won the Championship with them and had a great time but we went up into the Premiership totally under-funded, under-resourced and it was difficult.

“We came straight back down and some lessons should have been learned from that episode but they weren’t.

“It was that desire for more glory, more success, that cost them.

“You must live within your means; I’d like to drive a brand new Range Rover but drive an Astra instead. I could put a Range Rover on finance but I wouldn’t be able to repay it and they’d take it off me eventually…”

The debate continues to simmer, however, between the Championship clubs and the RFU with regards funding.

Although the governing body agreed a £225m deal over eight years with Premier Rugby last July, second-tier clubs still only receive £530,000 per season, many requiring benefactors to fill shortfalls often of more than £1m. Some Championship owners say the division is destined to turn semi-professional unless more cash is injected by the RFU and, given Welsh’s plight, the financial woe of Jersey and the fact Richmond are already part-time, it is hard to argue otherwise.

Burnell, 49, admitted: “What’s happened to London Welsh is a worry to other clubs. When you think of all the fantastic work going on in the Championship and the number of players coming out of it, it is a great competition.

“But there is definitely a need to revisit the funding situation if you are looking to use it as the second-tier of professional rugby.

“The Aviva Premiership is one of the leading leagues in world rugby but the Championship that underpins that needs more resources and better funding.

“That’s the big message for me. It doesn’t necessarily mean give us more money to spend on players. It could go back into the facilities. One Championship club currently has to pay something between £10,000 and £15,000 per month on training facilities. Over a year that’s £150,000 of that £530,000 taken for starters.

“Whatever happens, there has to be another income stream from the RFU to support it.

“They are pushing for more Academy players to play Championship and that’s not a bad idea. But if it’s wanting it to give them a good grounding here it has to recognise it is a big league.”

Welsh, meanwhile, are “extremely disappointed” to have been removed from the league.

A new board was challenged to provide evidence of funds to pay creditors and clarity on a new business plan, but RFU bosses were left unconvinced.

In a statement, however, Welsh insisted it did “satisfy all of the conditions required” by RFU regulations and is considering whether to respond further.