It is being reported that the RFU’s decision as to whether to extend the suspension of relegation from the Premiership by another three years has been pushed back to the end of June.
As you may recall, it was decided that there would be no relegation from the Premiership this season, thereby creating a league of 13 clubs next season.
What is clear to me, and I have said this many a time, is that there simply isn’t enough money in the game to sustain two professional leagues – not without sacrifices being made elsewhere.
The RFU’s job, as I see it, is to oversee the international game and support grassroots and community rugby. Why the 62 members of the RFU Council should be deciding on the future of professional club rugby in England is beyond me.
The professional club game, again as I see it, is a different beast and needs to be run by a professional, commercial executive.
There are a number of clubs currently in the Championship – Saracens (obviously), Ealing, Doncaster and Cornish Pirates spring to mind – who, feasibly, could put together a commercial case for being in the Premiership. That would result in 16 elite professional clubs which feels about the right number for the professional game to be self-funded and sustainable, with the RFU providing funding only for the development and release of players for international duty.
That would leave the Championship (or whatever the level below the elite professional level was called) to exist on a semi-professional/amateur, with all leagues below that level strictly amateur, as long as the door is not slammed too tightly shut – allowing for an ambitious club with appropriate funding to present a case for inclusion in the elite level in the future.
I am not suggesting for one moment that such an arrangement would be easy to implement or lacking in pain but I don’t believe the status quo is sustainable, especially as it is the grassroots and community game that appears to be suffering the most.
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