English Championship rugby union team Ealing Trailfinders will not be eligible for promotion to the top-tier Premiership this season after failing to meet the necessary stadium capacity requirements.
Ealing, which is currently top of the Championship, plays its home matches at the 5,000-capacity Trailfinders Sports Ground. The club won the league during the 2021-22 season but was denied promotion to the Premiership after failing to meet the required 10,001 capacity threshold.
Doncaster Knights, which finished second last season, was also denied promotion as the club’s Castle Park stadium had a capacity of around 5,183. Ealing withdrew an appeal relating to the decision and reached a settlement with the RFU through which the governing body committed to reviewing minimum capacity standards ahead of the current season.
The RFU has now ratified the recommendation of the Professional Game Board on the minimum standards criteria assessments for Ealing and Doncaster, which both applied to be assessed.
Ealing was not able to evidence the necessary licensed capacity, supported by a safety certificate or planning permission to achieve a capacity of over 10,000. As a result, the club will not be eligible for promotion at the end of this season.
Doncaster has satisfied the criteria and is eligible for promotion at the end of the season, but the club is currently fifth in the table and 23 points adrift of Ealing with eight games remaining.
Doncaster’s Castle Park has a licensed capacity of over 5,000, with planning permission to extend beyond 10,000. The RFU said the club has provided detailed information regarding the safety assurance process to be undertaken by its local authority.
The minimum standards criteria are in place to ensure Premiership clubs and promoted clubs have suitable facilities to protect player safety and welfare, and to provide a good-quality, safe environment for fans. The criteria were revised last year to allow additional time for a club to build up to a capacity of 10,001.
Phil De Glanville, chair of the Professional Game Board, said: “The decision to support Championship club promotion, with a phased approach to ground development, was taken to support the transition to the Premiership and to allow more time to achieve the 10,001 capacity criteria.
“The RFU and all members of the Professional Game Board would like to thank the Premiership and Championship clubs for the work being undertaken on finding ways to ensure the second tier of professional rugby in England can become more self-sustaining.”