Newly-promoted Super League club London Broncos have decided to cease running their hugely-successful scholarship and academy programmes under their current model, Love Rugby League has been told.
The Broncos have one of the most impressive junior development systems in the game, and undoubtedly the best outside of the traditional heartlands in England.
It has produced England internationals including Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Kai Pearce-Paul and Mike McMeeken.
Furthermore, the Broncos were promoted back to Super League this year against the odds with a huge number of homegrown players in their squad.
Mike Eccles’ side didn’t have a single player from the north of England in their squad, and Eccles had already told Love Rugby League he was keen to use London-produced players as much as possible in the top-flight in 2024.
But the long-term future of that conveyor belt of talent has been thrown into doubt, it seems.
Parents of players in those academy and scholarship systems were told in a Zoom call on Tuesday evening that they would stop running in their current format from 2024, with teams from Under-14s up to Under-18s impacted.
London invest a significant six-figure sum into their junior development programmes every year.
The Rugby Football League contribute nothing in terms of funding or support, leaving the Broncos – or more notably, owner David Hughes – effectively forced to invest millions over a prolonged period of time just to keep the systems in place.
Broncos determined to remain a commitment to aspiring rugby league players in the South
Under an IMG criteria system where academy and junior development scores nothing, London are believed to now be looking at ways to re-invest that money to become a sustainable Super League club.
It means their scholarship teams will not play any official matches in 2024 – but they are determined to retain a commitment to aspiring rugby league players in the south of England.
As part of their promotion to Super League, London now have to provide a reserve grade team: something they didn’t operate last season.
Academy players to take part in reserves in 2024
It is understood their academy players will effectively take part in that competition in 2024, with over 15 games scheduled in to be played.
London will effectively use reserves as a development team, meaning that players at the top end of their academy at present still have an opportunity to progress to senior rugby.
But beyond that, the future looks much less certain.
The Broncos will commit to hosting development days throughout 2024 and aim to organise fixtures where possible, but the news of funding being cut internally has devastated many parents and players.
They will attempt to play fixtures in the south of England, but it means a lack of regular opposition against frontline, established scholarship and academy teams in the north.
The RFL declined to comment when approached by Love Rugby League, while the Broncos have also been approached for comment.