DMP Durham Sharks face a crucial 24 hours in their fight for survival

DMP Durham Sharks have been granted an additional 24 hours to salvage their Allianz Premier 15s season after three “exceptional” days of fundraising.

Players at the North East’s only top women’s rugby team were told last week they must catch up on a £50,000 deficit to remain in this year’s competition.

What seemed an impossible feat at the time was drawing ever closer since a crowdfunding campaign was launched over the weekend, raising £32,679 which, according to a letter from the players, “comprises both crowdfunding and sponsorship pledges”.

The players had given a deadline of Monday when they were due to meet with club officials to collect what they believed was the bare minimum to stay afloat in the Premier 15s and cover basic running costs.

The latest letter, posted on social media by Sharks players on Monday night and addressed to “rugby and women’s sport supporters”, read: “The club have given us an extra 24 hours to secure the commitment to cover any failures at to take on the running costs this coming season.

“The level of support for our fight to keep elite women’s rugby alive in the North East that the public has offered over the past 72 hours has been truly extraordinary.

“We want to thank you for all of your generosity so far, we’re so close!

“Please keep spreading the word, donate if you can, or contact us for more information on investment and sponsorship opportunities.”

Since the restructuring and renaming of the women’s top flight in 2017, Sharks have been part of the Premier 15.

Unlike most teams in the league, they are not affiliated with a Premiership rugby side and do not have full-time professionals or England internationals such as Harlequins and Saracens, the only two clubs to hold the Premier 15s title.

Her first letter read: “We would like to ask for your financial support to help us bridge the gap in the basic running costs required to participate in the league this year and those provided by Rugby Football Union to supplement the services provided.” It is roughly estimated that we need to raise at least £50,000 to stay afloat in the league [we] believe our only option is to reach out to the public and ask for support.

“We have decided to try crowdfunding to raise money, but the bottom line is we need a consortium of individuals or companies committed to covering any shortfall in running costs during the season.

“As this is a time sensitive issue, unfortunately this agreement has to be in effect by Monday 8 August.”

The Sharks have finished bottom of the table for the past two seasons, with the upcoming 2022-23 season set to be their last before the RFU reopens its bidding process for clubs looking to compete in the league’s next cycle.

Instead of being promoted or relegated, teams that pass the bidding process are granted a guaranteed stay in the league for a set period of time.

In June, the RFU announced it was investing up to £220m in women’s football over the next decade, with plans to professionalize the Premier 15 over that period, with several big-name organizations including London Irish and Ealing Trailfinders as inclusion requirements may come into question.

The RFU, solicited for a response on the latest developments, said: “DMP Durham Sharks are currently unable to secure the funding needed to compete in the Allianz Premier 15 2022-23.

“The RFU and DMP Durham Sharks are working together to achieve an appropriate outcome given the circumstances. We understand this is a difficult and uncertain time for all involved and will update as soon as we can.” DMP Durham Sharks face a crucial 24 hours in their fight for survival

Fry Electronics Team

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