English rugby bosses have opted to slash funding for the game's second-tier Championship league for next season.
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has confirmed it will cut Championship funding to "approximately £288,000 per club" for the 2020-21 campaign.
Chief executive Bill Sweeney claimed that the RFU could not justify continuing with the increased funding the governing body has provided between 2016 and 2020.
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"This is a decision based on a principle of ensuring levels of investment are geared to a clear return on investment," said Sweeney.
"There are many worthy requirements from both the professional and community game and we need to make sure that every pound spent is clearly justified. The decision we have made is connected to a wider review of strategic objectives and resource allocation.
"The decision taken in 2015 to increase Championship funding significantly was against a set of objectives and deliverables that we do not believe have been achieved."
The cuts will leave the 12 Greene King IPA Championship clubs fretting on their financial stability for next season.
The second-tier clubs could be forced to seek more loans from top-flight Gallagher Premiership counterparts, while the move may widen the gap between the two domestic leagues.
Sweeney's description of the Championship as a "useful way for players to get additional developmental experience" serves as a body blow to private investors in the competition.
"Ultimately the difference in the levels of funding between the current agreement and our new commitment will not be the deciding factor for clubs with aspirations for promotion and will always require additional investment," said Sweeney.
"The gateway is still open for clubs to get into the Premiership if they have the necessary financial resources and meet the minimum standards required.
"The Championship is, and will continue to be, a useful way for players to get additional developmental experience, but we do not believe it is the primary place where Premiership and England players are discovered and developed."