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Grade clubs living near the breadline

SOME Super Rugby players have asked struggling Sydney clubs for payments to secure their services in Shute Shield games, a review into premier rugby has found.

The ARU report on the state and future of the Sydney and Brisbane club competitions found almost all clubs were in a ''poor'' financial state and said some were sometimes asked by their returning Super Rugby players for extra cash on top of the regular match payments and win bonuses doled out to all players.

''Sometimes these requests are met but the general feedback was that Super Rugby players are usually treated in a similar way in terms of payments and benefits as all other players,'' the review stated. ''Almost all clubs'' said they would like a rule restricting what they could pay their Super Rugby athletes.

The revelation is among many contained in a 76-page report entitled ''Premier Rugby Taskforce Review'', which documents the perilous states of the Sydney and Brisbane club competitions.

In Sydney alone, two of the 12 clubs, Penrith and Gordon, are on the brink of collapse, according to the report, while the long-term viability of the others is in question.

''The taskforce considers that the poor financial state of the majority of clubs, with some at high risk of failure, places at risk not just individual clubs but the competitions they participate in,'' the report said.

It found seven Sydney clubs made financial losses in 2010, nine made losses in 2011 and seven were expected to make losses last year, totalling almost $1.3 million in combined losses over three years.

The review, conducted by the ARU using interviews with all clubs and three years' worth of financial data, also found most were severely lacking in their high-performance programs.

It paints a stark picture of proud clubs that still see themselves as nurseries for Australia's rugby talent and the country's only legitimate ''third tier'' but, for the most part, can no longer provide emerging players with rugby and fitness programs that are up to standard.

Of the 12 Sydney clubs involved in premiership rugby, only Eastern Suburbs, Northern Suburbs, Southern Districts and Sydney University were given the highest of three rankings for their high-performance programs.

Penrith and Gordon, the two clubs struggling most financially, were in the lowest band alongside Randwick, a traditionally high-performing club that has produced rugby luminaries such as Simon Poidevin, the Ella brothers and current Waratahs coaches Michael Cheika and Alan Gaffney.

Randwick's financial problems are well documented, with the club voting to sell its licensed clubhouse in Coogee late last year.

Player payments also came under scrutiny, with a picture emerging of a growing gulf between the ''haves'' and ''have-nots'' in the Sydney competition.

The review estimated one unnamed Sydney club provided tuition and accommodation scholarships worth half a million dollars to some of its players through a partnership with an academic institution.

Clubs spent an average of about $110,000 on player payments each year, a figure that excluded payments in kind and services, the review found. But it was noted that most clubs were probably underestimating their expenditure on player payments for fear of being stripped of ARU funding.

The taskforce recommended wholesale changes to the premier rugby competitions, including that clubs focus all their resources on developing first-grade and first-grade colts sides and become better integrated with the ARU-run national academy programs.

The taskforce also proposes the competition be split into two - one for first- and second-grade teams plus first-grade colts, and another for the other grades.

''For premier rugby to continue to be a pathway to elite rugby more change must be implemented,'' the report states. ''The above suggestion is just one possibility and a structure like this could meet with a fair bit of resistance from some clubs.''

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TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
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SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
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Team P W L D +/- Pts
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England 4 2 2 0 58 11
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
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