How Doncaster Knights could benefit as Eailing Trailfinders withdraw promotion appeal

Eailing Trailfinders have withdrawn their appeal against the decision to block their promotion to the Premiership – which could help Doncaster Knights in their bid to reach the top level.

By Paul Goodwin
Friday, 29th April 2022, 10:32 am

Championship winners Ealing and runners-up Doncaster were the only clubs to apply for promotion but were refused after failing to meet minimum standards criteria based on stadium capacity.

Premiership grounds must hold at least 10,001 spectators but the capacities of Vallis Way and Castle Park both fall some way short of that number.

Ealing’s withdrawal of their appeal means that no club has been promoted from this season’s Championship – which could now see that promotion place rollover to next season and give Knights another bite of the cherry.

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Ealing and Doncaster lock horns at Vallis Way in 2021. Photo: Alex Davidson/Getty Images

It is unclear whether this will be the case, however.

Initial plans announced last year to expand the Premiership to 14 teams and scrap relegation from the top flight until 2024 – as part of a ‘Covid Recovery Plan’ – said there would be no promotion from the Championship in 2023.

However, the Rugby Football Union has now said it will "review standards relating to minimum capacity" before next season's audit process – which does suggest that promotion could be available next year.

And if the authorities were to lower the minimum capacity of Premiership stadia – following widespread criticism of the criteria and condemnation of Ealing and Doncaster’s plight – that could also benefit Knights’ bid to reach the top level of the game.

Castle Park’s current capacity is 5,183.

Ealing said in a statement: "Ealing Trailfinders has withdrawn its appeal in relation to the Professional Game Board’s decision that our ground does not currently meet the Minimum Standards Criteria required for promotion to the Gallagher Premiership.

“As part of this settlement the RFU has reiterated it will continue to collaborate with Championship clubs on the development of a sustainable Championship as well as a commitment of the Professional Game Board to review standards relating to minimum capacity ahead of the audit process next season.

“Ealing Trailfinders is confident that the PGB, having reconsidered the matter, will want to reform the MSC to make promotion a real and affordable option for any and all Championship clubs.

“In Ealing Trailfinders’ view, the number of spectators for promoted clubs must be grown sustainably and over time so that promoted sides or those with ambitions for promotion are not forced either into speculative, rapid, unsustainable and unnecessary spending on unused stands or facilities or into expensive and over specified ground share deals which take them away from their core fan base, employees, volunteers and communities.

“Ealing Trailfinders expects the PGB’s review carefully to consider the case for reducing the required minimum capacity as well as allowing it to be achieved by newly promoted clubs in staggered increments, before adopting the MSC for the 2022/23 season.”

Knights welcome Coventry to Castle Park tomorrow (2.30pm) for the first leg of their Championship Cup quarter-final.