for Moseley and Cov

BRIAN DICK

Rugby Correspondent

brian.dick@birminghampost.net

Two of the West Midlands’ biggest rugby clubs and two of the most famous names in the game stared each other down from either side of a great divide last night, as the sport braced itself for this afternoon’s landmark vote on the structure of the leagues below the Premiership.

The immediate futures of Moseley and Coventry, who between them have existed for 269 years and provided scores in internationals to England’s cause, will be shaped today once the Rugby Football Union puts before its council a proposal to introduce a totally professional second tier.

If the governing body receives the necessary consent, they will set in a motion a whirlwind programme of changes that will see five teams relegated from National One at the end of this season and the creation of a Championship with 12 full time squads, a television deal and an umbrella sponsor.

But the 16 clubs currently playing at level two are bitterly split on the issue. While ten, including Moseley, remain in step with the prevailing view of league organisers First Division Rugby Ltd to oppose the initiative in its current guise, six, including Coventry have broken ranks and are siding with the RFU.

Both factions are hugely critical of the other’s stance and clubs that earlier this week stood shoulder to shoulder, like Moseley and Coventry, are now embroiled in a war of words and alliance building ahead of today’s Twickenham showdown.

There has been disagreement within FDR since the union presented their plans last month, at which time they were thrown out by 12 votes to four. But the RFU’s decision to go public with on Monday when they announced their intention to cut the league, introduce an elaborate promotion and relegation play-off system and make up for a shortfall in fixtures with an Anglo Welsh Trophy, has fractured an already fragile unity.

Coventry were one of the dozen who originally opposed the proposals but yesterday presented themselves, with Exeter, London Welsh, Plymouth, Nottingham and Doncaster as one of the six dissenting voices.

Chairman Andrew Green claimed the divergence in interests between those at the top of the division and those at the bottom had become too wide to reconcile.

“Coventry have been sitting with an open mind trying to take in as much information as possible,” Green said. “We have got to the stage where we feel FDR is not representative of the best interests of Coventry moving forward and we are very surprised at some of the decisions they have taken on our behalf.

“We have been in discussion with other people in FDR and I feel Coventry needs to align itself with the more forward thinking clubs in the division.

“The RFU proposals give the clubs far greater funding over the next eight years than they presently enjoy and I cannot see why any clubs are being reticent to join.”

Moseley, on the other hand, claim they cannot see why clubs would sacrifice the unity of FDR Ltd, one of its main bargaining chips, for so little financial commitment in return and criticised Coventry and their cohort for doing so.

A club spokesman said: “It is singularly inappropriate for individual clubs who cannot have their own way for their own disparate, or should that be desperate, reasons, to try to impose on the remaining ten, proposals which are not acceptable to them.

“Moseley has not agreed with all the decisions taken by FDR over the years but has felt obliged to abide by the collective will. All FDR clubs should consider this because without one another, we would simply have no fixtures.” Which could result in Boxing Day’s clash between the two old rivals being the last.