Steve Boden: Why I quit as Doncaster Knights' director of rugby

Disillusionment about the direction the game is travelling and a desire to spend more time with his family were at the root of Steve Boden’s decision to quit as Doncaster Knights’ director of rugby.
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A week has passed since Doncaster announced that Boden had stood down, news that sent shockwaves through the second tier given the fact he had established them as a top-four club in his three and a half years in charge and that the Castle Park outfit is a well-run operation.

His growing frustration at the way the Rugby Football Union had treated the Championship over the last decade – annual reductions in central funding and now the threat of a complete withdrawal of that much-needed cash if clubs do not sign up to their vision of a Premiership 2 - had become increasingly obvious in recent months.

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Boden was never afraid to speak candidly about such matters.

Happier times: Steve Boden coaching Doncaster Knights at Castle Park in a game last month before his sudden decision to quit last week. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)Happier times: Steve Boden coaching Doncaster Knights at Castle Park in a game last month before his sudden decision to quit last week. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
Happier times: Steve Boden coaching Doncaster Knights at Castle Park in a game last month before his sudden decision to quit last week. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

And it is for that reason, plus the realisation that he wants to dedicate more time to his young family, that he has stepped aside.

“I’ve left because I want to spend time with my family,” Boden told The Yorkshire Post. “I’ve left because, and this is no fault of the club because it’s a really well-run club, but the RFU are struggling to see positivity around the Championship.

“I’m looking at where rugby is and how it’s under-pinned by extremely wealthy businessmen and how that can crumble at any time.

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“I went through administration with Leeds only four years ago, I’m looking for a bit more out of life.”

Doncaster Knights in action at Castle Park. Photo: George Wood/Getty ImagesDoncaster Knights in action at Castle Park. Photo: George Wood/Getty Images
Doncaster Knights in action at Castle Park. Photo: George Wood/Getty Images

His abrupt decision and the main reason for it should serve as a wake-up call for the game’s administrators.

It follows four professional clubs going to the wall last season – three in the Premiership in Wasps, Worcester and London Irish, and one chasing the Premiership in Jersey Reds.

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Funding has been cut to Championship clubs from £600,000 a few years ago to £160,000 this season, and now the RFU want clubs from the second tier or further down the pyramid to apply to be part of a more professionalised second tier.

For Boden, it is not a sustainable business model.

“I see rugby as unsustainable. I see full-time Championship rugby as unsustainable,” he warned.

“Don’t get me wrong, Doncaster is a really well-run club, it’s got guys that are passionate about the club in Tony DeMulder and Steve Lloyd. I couldn’t speak more highly of the club for what they’re doing for rugby in Yorkshire and for the community.

“But taking emotion out of the equation, all the clubs in the Championship have to ask, what are we striving for? Because it’s an unfair playing field.

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“You can’t go up, because if you do you have to meet all these regulations, you’ve got to play a two-legged play-off final against a team with seven or eight times more resources than you, then if you do go up you get half the funding of everyone else and it will cripple the club financially to go up and try to compete.

“The governing body are making it that way. It used to be a case of ‘this is hard’. Now it’s a question of ‘why?’.

“And that’s the question I faced – why am I doing it?

“At the moment there’s too much uncertainty around professional rugby. I’ve witnessed that, having gone through administration. You’re constantly waiting to see what the RFU want to do, but I’ve been waiting for that for 12 years and at some point you’ve got to put yourself first.”

Boden is unsure what his own future holds but is excited to find out. First and foremost he wants to spend more time with his kids.

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A new career in something completely different is an option, and if a coaching job at a Premiership club came up, he would consider it, but only if it suits his new outlook.

He has no regrets about his time at Doncaster; finishes of second, sixth and third on a shoestring budget suggest he shouldn’t.

“I enjoyed my time there,” he says. “I wish them all the best and at some point I’ll be down at Castle Park supporting them.”