In The Press: Ben Ward says it is insulting to say Ealing Trailfinders promotion would be 'embarrassing'
Director of Rugby Ben Ward says it is an insult for Ealing Trailfinders' potential promotion to be labelled as 'embarrassing'.
The Trailfinders are currently in second place in the Green King IPA Championship, five points behind league leaders London Irish, who were relegated from the Premiership last season.
Owen Slot said on The Ruck podcast that, if promoted, Ealing would be "an embarrassment" to the Premiership due to the size of the club and its crowds, but Ward feels the criticism is unfair.
"I find it quite insulting that we'd be 'an embarrassment'," Ward said on the Will Greenwood podcast. "If at the end of this year we have earned the right to go up, then we have earned the right to go up, and I think we've done a very good job to do so based on how the funding is distributed."
Ward was speaking to Sky Sports' Rupert Cox about talks that the Premiership could be ringfenced, scrapping the promotion-relegation system currently in place, a move the 34-year-old is against.
"First and foremost we're just outside the Premiership and we've, over the last 10 to 15 years, built the club up with the ambition of one day getting there," Ward said.
"So a huge amount of money and resources has been put into putting ourselves in this position to try and make the next step, which we know is a big step but we're finally in a position where we're still not quite there, but we're in a position that if we got promotion this year that we would take it.
"Worcester and Exeter 20 or 30 years ago wouldn't have been knocking on the door to get into the Premiership but Exeter have now gone on to win the league.
"It's wrong for the actual state of the game, and I actually think the way the game is run in this country is completely wrong because it's based generally on 13 shareholders and their interests rather than the needs of the game in general."
Ward says the club are prepared for a legal battle if the Premiership ringfencing goes ahead.
"We have a contract with the RFU for this year and next year at least, that shows that there will be promotion and relegation.
"If they try to bring in something else then obviously we would fight against it. If they try to bring in something while we have that contract then we'd have to look at all our options.
"If they try to bring in something after that, again we would still fight against it because we believe it would go against our right as an organisation to trade and block our right to progress."
One of the issues facing the Trailfinders is that their ground would be too small for the Premiership, so if they are promoted they will need to find a new stadium.
"It's disappointing because we groundshare currently with the London Broncos, who have just got promotion to Super League," said Ward.
"We're building another stand at the moment and that would fulfil the criteria for London Broncos, they will play their home games in Super League at Vallis Way.
"So for us it's disappointing that we have to look elsewhere, but we are in talks and looking at various football stadiums local to us that would enable us to take that promotion if it came along.
"You could argue there's a difference between the Super League and the Premiership, it's a different sport, but in terms of the crowds that people like Leeds Rhinos would be bringing down here, it's probably no different to what a Leicester Tigers would bring.
"So the fact that they're able to meet the criteria for the RFL, our owner finds that quite difficult to understand."
Though Ward is prepared to fight against the ringfencing of the Premiership, he says his concern lies with other Championship clubs who have no desire to get promoted.
"One of my fears is potentially that if there's some sort of compensation offered to teams in the Championship to allow ringfencing to happen.
"I think there's some sides that don't want to go up, that maybe would consider taking a financial settlement to stop promotion and relegation for the next three, four, or five years.
"I've often heard chats of whether it becomes a 14-team Premiership or a 16-team Premiership, I don't necessarily agree with that, you have to be careful about the amount of matches players play, but I believe you can sustain 20-odd teams in this country.
"I look at the teams that do want to come up, that are showing the ambition with their stadium builds, their finances and what they're doing off the pitch just as much as on the pitch.
"I would love to see Premiership Rugby or the RFU take over the Championship and maybe even reduce it to a lesser amount of teams but funded better so that they can bridge the gap."