The Rugby Football Union (RFU) and the Greene King IPA Championship Clubs have today announced a new five year agreement which will see an uplift in central funding, further strengthening the partnership between the two parties for the continued growth of the second tier.

The RFU will increase its central funding of the competition to include a range of elements, designed to further enhance the second tier of professional rugby.

The partnership – which runs until 2019/20 – will require clubs to allocate a percentage of funding to developing their facilities while in addition, the RFU will now contribute towards player medical insurance, ensuring the league continues to develop both on and off the field. The new agreement will begin ahead of the 2015/16 season, replacing the final year of the current deal.

Now in its sixth season as the professional second tier of English rugby, the Greene King IPA Championship continues to play a vital role in the development of English talent through the English Qualified Player (EQP) scheme, which financially rewards clubs for fielding home grown talent. The scheme – introduced into the league in 2011/12- forms an integral part of the funding structure and continues to do so throughout the new agreement.
 
With 17 of the current England squad having played Championship rugby, the league continues to offer an integral pathway for future International talent; a fact further recognised today by the announcement.
 
In addition to investing in facilities and player medical insurance, the new agreement will also see a rise in funding for the British & Irish Cup.
 
Commenting on the announcement, RFU Chief Executive Officer Ian Ritchie said:
 
"We are delighted to have reached an agreement with the Greene King IPA Championship clubs, particularly one that encourages vibrant and sustainable businesses both on and off the field. The Greene King IPA Championship is a crucial part of the professional game in England and as evident by today's announcement, one that we are focused on developing and improving alongside the clubs.
 
 "You only need to glance at the England squad to see the influence of the Greene King IPA Championship: Jack Nowell, Mako Vunipola, George Ford, Tom Youngs, Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees and so on. We are very fortunate to have such a wealth of talent in this country, and a big part of that is down to the quality of rugby on offer in the Greene King IPA Championship. With this new deal, we should see that continue to grow from strength to strength.

"I would like to thank the Greene King IPA Championship Clubs, particularly Geoff Irvine and Ian Connell, for their cooperation and tireless work in bringing this new agreement to pass. On behalf of all parties, we look forward to a bright future for the competition.”

Geoff Irvine, Chairman of the Greene King IPA Championship Clubs added: "The Greene King IPA Championship Clubs were unanimous in their agreement to the new funding deal with the RFU.  Of course we would have liked more but the RFU were very professional in the negotiations and the clubs understand the demands that Union has in terms of funding from all areas of the game.  The five year deal should provide some stability and enable clubs to undertake long term planning for the future."