Last season, Ealing Trailfinders and Doncaster’s neck and neck race for the Championship title came to an underwhelming finish as the RFU denied both clubs the chance of promotion prior to the end of the season.
Alongside Premiership Rugby Limited (PRL), the RFU stated that neither club met the minimum standards required to join the top flight of English rugby.
As a result, Ealing’s inaugural Championship title was somewhat nullified.
However, last Friday, those requirements changed.
The Professional Game Board (PGB) have agreed a new minimum standards criteria for the 2023/24 season that gives Championship clubs additional time to reach a stadium capacity of 10,001.
The new stipulations state that at the start of the 23/24 season, promoted clubs must have a capacity of at least 5,000.
Following this, the club must then increase capacity to the previous requirement of 10,001 within one season or face automatic relegation.
Phil de Glanville, Chair of the PGB stated: “It remains the view of the PGB that a minimum ground’s capacity of 10,001 is important due to the rigour of the Local Authority issued safety certificate for stadia of this size in addition to its importance for fans, sponsors and broadcasters.”
The change is an enormous step towards bridging the sizeable gap between Premiership and Championship clubs.
Estimated figures suggest that Premiership clubs make over £300,000 more than Championship sides per home game.
With the obvious financial struggles that English rugby currently faces, the same struggles that have seen Worcester Warriors suspended from all competitions, the delay in the minimum requirements adjustment has denied Ealing a season of substantial financial benefit.
The initial fallout from the RFU’s denial of promotion to Ealing Trailfinders and Doncaster was extensive.
Along with fans taking to social media to display their frustration, Ealing’s official statement after the decision was one of great dismay.
Their statement included the line: “We are disappointed that having won the Championship, we will not be taking our rightful place in the Premiership.”
A spokesperson for the club said: “We have no immediate reaction to the RFU’s update. We are awaiting further clarification from the RFU before making any formal statement.
“However, our intention is to fully meet the criteria stipulated in the statement. Our current stadium capacity is 5,000.”
The Trailfinders now have everything in place to become a Premiership club next season.
Having started with a perfect three wins from three games this season, they’re well on their way to backing up their heroics of last season and become a Premiership club for the first time in club history.