Extend promotion/relegation or ring-fence the Premiership?

Last Sunday, I asked on twitter whether promotion and relegation should be increased between the top two tiers of English rugby. All week I’ve had replies back, some firmly against, some firmly for, and some suggesting that the Premiership should be ring fenced and promotion and relegation scrapped entirely. Scrapping promotion and relegation did the rounds in the mainstream press a few weeks ago, and Chris Lane (@Laner_45) tweeted saying he was in favour of ring-fencing. I asked Chris is he would write a blog about the merits of ring-fencing, and I would write a blog about extending the promotion & relegation – neither of our arguments are bullet proof but perhaps it gives you food for thought and some great discussion!

Chris Lane talks about why the Premiership should be ring-fenced!

In the aftermath of the latest side to be relegated out of domestic rugby's elite competition currently branded the Aviva Premiership the game has exploded into the current topic of scrapping the idea of movement between the leagues.

After gaining promotion last summer beating big favourites Bristol Rugby to the final spot in the 2014/15 premiership campaign London Welsh have lost 27 consecutive games across 3 competitions and accumulated 1 league point. Commitment and effort being a minimum requirement for pro sportsman that is an embarrassing showing resulting in the club being unceremoniously relegated in March and something that has to be prevented from reoccurring!

It is understood and prominently touted from some areas that the Aviva Premiership will kick off in 2016/17 with a ring fenced expanded 14 team top flight competition.

If that change comes to the fore it's the biggest change to domestic competition within the pro era with promotion and relegation being a major part of the sport since 1987. The proposed change that has already been backed by 14 premiership share holding clubs essentially removing London Welsh and adding Worcester, Bristol and Yorkshire Carnegie

Dreams and hopes of Doncaster and Nottingham of premiership rugby have constantly been raised but how are they set to cope with life in the top flight.. elite rugby in England is moving away from who puts in most hours on training ground and expends the most energy on the field. Sustainability is the key to being competitive amongst the now established giants of the game a new priority.

The funding doesn't stack up with running costs of a championship club to be around 950k, RFU provide 350k so clubs are running at full capacity competing within a second division whilst trying to manage expectations of expansion. And the reward.. London Welsh after doing the tough part on the pitch were rewarded with £1.5m, less than half of the remaining 11 Aviva premiership clubs!

The gap between the Premiership and Championship is growing and the playoff structure currently in place as much hope as it brings will eventually destroy a club and that is not an option in our sport.

2 ring-fenced competitions including 14 prem and 10 champ clubs will allow all 24 'elite' teams to plan, distribute and effectively get a return on funding and investments. The new structure will launch professional rugby in this country to the next level and is the only real route to re balance and push on

As stated every club strives to put in the best processes, bring in the best personnel maintain and market a product to the fans of the game. 24 businesses being able to target long term goals, go from 4 currently turning profits to a sustainable platform to breed and nurture talent through high performance academies, the best pathways in place to bring on players, coaches and officials, unrivalled facilities and more and more being made available to the community through artificial pitches and other ventures

For every success story in Exeter Chiefs rise through the leagues it's outnumbered by clubs bouncing up and down and financially getting in serious trouble.

We remain with the fear of relegation and liquidation but keep the odd 'thriller' game at the foot of the table and a 'who turns up on the night' championship playoffs system or reform our domestic system and grow 24 financially real elitest clubs allowing us as a country to not only compete within world rugby but put together a run of dominance within global tournaments by re shaping the bottom of the pyramid not just constantly replacing the tip.

Trevor Large talks about why the Premiership should be promoting and relegating TWO teams!

A few weeks ago I was at the Gloucester v Saints game chatting to a couple of Saints fans over the customary pre match pint. We got talking about promotion and relegation between the Premiership and the Championship and Andy Masterman mentioned about relegated two from the Premiership and promoting two from the Championship. I thought at the time is was a great idea and have been  mulling it over ever since.

In my personal view, sport is about competing and winning, especially at the top of any professional sport (I agree its more about participation at amateur level), and fundamental to winning is being promoted and relegated, so I’m certainly in favour of promotion and relegation wherever possible (and yes, I’d like to see it for the Six Nations, the Pro12 and SuperRugby!)

I want to take this a stage further – I’d like to see TWO teams relegated from the English Premiership and TWO teams promoted from the Championship.

The English Premiership is getting more competitive year on year, especially at the Top4/6 places, and even in the middle of the league as teams battle for the 7th place to potentially get in to top level European, but I’d like to see some more competition at the bottom too.

Obviously this year, London Welsh have been out their depth almost since day one, relegating two would have increased the competition between Newcastle, Irish and made Gloucester look over their shoulder a bit more.

Season 13/14 would of also seen Newcastle and Irish fighting it out as Worcester went down and in Season 12/13 would of seen Welsh down (23pts) and a fierce battle between Worcester (33pts), Sale and Irish (both on 35pts) really trying to avoid that drop. 

So with two teams going down, I’d like to see two teams coming up. Win the English Championship should mean automatic promotion – win the league, get promoted – simple as that. I’d like to see 2nd to 5th play off, just as 1st to 4th do currently.

In my view the Championship is more than capable, and competitive, to be sending two teams up, and this would give them more of a chance of succeeding and staying in the Premiership. Worcester, Bristol and London Welsh have been the three in the mix for the last few seasons, adding another team in would only increase competition and help close a gap between the big boys of the Premiership and those aspiring Championship clubs aiming to cement their place in the top Tier!

We need to promote and grow rugby, more competition and more opportunity to get in to the Premiership can only be a good thing and ring fencing simply cuts the Championship off and in my opinion, would be extremely damaging to rugby long term.

After all Exeter Chiefs got promoted in 2009 and haven’t looked back since and are in with a real decent chance of making the Premiership play offs this year!