DMP Durham Sharks have been granted an additional 24 hours to save their Allianz Premier 15s season following three “extraordinary” days of fundraising.
Players on the only women’s top-flight rugby side in the North East learned last week they would need to make up a £50,000 shortfall to stay in this year’s competition.
What at the time seemed an impossible feat grew ever-closer since a crowdfunding campaign was launched over the weekend, generating £32,679 which, read a letter from the players, “includes both crowd-funding and sponsorship pledges.”
Players had set a deadline of Monday, when they were set to meet with club officials, to raise what they believed was the bare minimum to stay afloat in the Premier 15s and meet basic running costs.
The latest letter, posted to Sharks players’ social media on Monday night and addressed to “supporters of rugby and women’s sport” read: “We have been granted an extra 24 hours by the club to secure the commitment to underwrite any shortfall in running costs this coming season.
“The level of support towards our fight for keeping elite women’s rugby alive in the North East offered by the public over the past 72 hours has been truly extraordinary.
“We would like to express our gratitude for all of your generosity so far, we are so close!
“Please continue to spread the word, donate if you can, or get in touch for more information on investment and sponsorship opportunities.”
Sharks have been in the Premier 15s ever since women’s top flight was restructured and re-branded in 2017.
Unlike most teams in the league, they are not affiliated with a Premiership Rugby side and do not boast full-time professionals nor England internationals like Harlequins and Saracens, the only two clubs to hold the Premier 15s title.
🏉 Pre-Season 2022/23 🏉
Our preparations for the upcoming @Premier15s season begin this week!
— DMP Sharks (@DMP_Sharks) July 6, 2022
Their initial letter read: “We are reaching out to ask for your financial support to help us bridge the gap in the shortfall of the basic running costs required to compete in the league this year and supplement what is provided by the Rugby Football Union.
“It is roughly estimated that we need to raise a minimum of £50,000 in order to be able to stay afloat in the league and [we] feel our only option is to reach out to the public and ask for assistance.
“We have opted to try crowdfunding in order to raise money, however the bottom line is that we need a consortium of individuals or businesses to commit to underwriting any shortfall in running costs over the season.
The week the lionesses brought it home and one of the top ten female rugby teams in the uk is struggling to find funding! Let’s supports womens sport and teams 💪 https://t.co/3R5HMk8Tyt
— Poppy (@poppy_g_c) August 5, 2022
“As this is a time sensitive issue, unfortunately this agreement must be in place by Monday 8th August.”
Sharks have finished bottom of the table for the past two seasons, with the upcoming 2022-23 campaign set to be their last before the RFU reopens its tendering process for clubs who wished to be part of the league’s next cycle.
Rather than promotion or relegation, teams who pass the tendering process are guaranteed to remain in the league for a fixed period.
— DMP Sharks (@DMP_Sharks) July 29, 2022
In June, the RFU announced it was investing up to £220million in the women’s game over the next decade, with plans to professionalise the Premier 15s in that time, with several big-name organisations, including London Irish and Ealing Trailfinders, attached to possible inclusion bids.
The RFU, asked for a response to the latest developments, said: “DMP Durham Sharks are currently not in a position to secure the level of funding required to compete in the 2022-23 Allianz Premier 15s.
“The RFU and DMP Durham Sharks are working together to attain a suitable outcome given the circumstances. We understand this is a difficult and uncertain time for all involved and will update as and when we can.”