Doncaster Knights say they will appeal the decision denying them a chance of promotion to the Gallagher Premiership.
The Rugby Football Union announced on Tuesday that Championship leaders Doncaster and third-placed Ealing Trailfinders had failed to meet minimum standards criteria for Premiership entry.
The clubs fell short as their respective home grounds are unable to hold at least 10,001 supporters.
Covid recovery measures agreed by the RFU last June allowed for the Premiership to be expanded from 13 clubs to 14 at the end of the 2021-22 season, enabling the winner of the second tier to move up.
Doncaster’s Castle Park stadium currently has a capacity of around 5,183, with 1,926 seats, while Ealing’s Trailfinders Sports Ground is able to hold approximately 5,000 spectators, with 2,115 seats.
According to the RFU, both clubs have suggested they could seek to expand their facilities, however no formal planning permissions are in place, while neither proposed ground-share arrangements in their applications.
Doncaster, though, say they are “disappointed, dismayed and disheartened” as they confirmed an appeal.
“Doncaster RFC are disappointed, dismayed and disheartened by the decision of the Rugby Football Union board to disallow the club’s application to play in the Premiership should the Doncaster Knights win the current season’s Championship,” a statement posted on the club’s official website read.
“The club will be appealing the decision.
“Within the audit process, the only failure by the club is to, currently, not be able to demonstrate a capacity crowd of 10,001 at the club’s ground, Castle Park.
“All other aspects of the audit it seems are in order, and Castle Park has, on a number of occasions, demonstrated its proficiency in hosting significant events via both women’s and under-20 international matches.
“At this stage, it can only be stated that the DRFC Board have every confidence that the required capacity could be delivered for season 2022/23 with a stand-by ground now being available should unexpected delays occur.
“There has been significant debate about the Premiership being open to promotion and relegation, which can only be good for the aspirational nature of clubs, players and fans alike.
“The current Championship contest is approaching its climax with at least three teams statistically able to take the title. By the beginning of April, the victor will be known.
“Excitement in the camps and among rugby supporters in general is high, but that has now been dashed at a stroke via yesterday’s untimely RFU statement, producing a resurgence of subsequent outpourings of angry feelings towards the governing body at a time when harmony should prevail.
“Sensibility and fairness dictate that a delay to a decision being made could have been better for all concerned.
“Now, the teams play the final matches of the season in an atmosphere of despondence, albeit an administrative box has been ticked.”
An independent audit found that neither Doncaster nor Ealing had met minimum standards criteria, and the Professional Game Board’s recommendation that neither club should be promoted was ratified by the RFU board.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.