WORCESTER Warriors chiefs have welcomed the decision to scrap relegation from English rugby’s top flight this season and expand next season’s Gallagher Premiership to 13 teams.
The men and women elected to represent the grassroots game on the RFU Council at Twickenham voted ‘strongly in favour’ of a moratorium on relegation last Thursday, initially for this season.
However, top flight teams such as Warriors could see the threat of demotion to the Championship withdrawn for a further three seasons after rugby chiefs began talks on a restructure of the domestic game.
Speaking after the announcement, Warriors highlighted the ongoing challenges posed by Covid-19 on and off the pitch, with club chiefs echoing concerns from around the league that relegation may not be based soley on on-field results.
“We believe this decision is both sensible and pragmatic. It allows clubs in the Premiership and Championship to plan ahead with a little more certainty and to give serious thought to future ways of reinvigorating rugby at all levels in England,” a club statement said.
“It also gives time for clubs to work closely with the RFU on a future structure for professional club rugby in England that is both sustainable and which best supports successful the England national side.”
Sixways bosses rejected criticisms that a ring-fenced top tier would make the Premiership less competitive, with play-off places on offer for a third of the league and a place in the European Champions Cup on offer for the top six.
With a 13-club Premiership for 2021/22 there will still, as currently, be 12 places available in European competitions which means the club that finishes bottom would miss out on European rugby in the 2022/23 campaign.
“As a club we have, in the past, benefited from promotion and relegation between leagues and we would never wish to block the progress of other clubs who have the ambition, financial stability and infrastructure to compete at the top level, Warriors chiefs said.
“We do, however, support the RFU view a new minimum standard criteria, investment in facilities and club funding should be discussed to ensure that if a club is promoted to the Premiership it can add value to the competition and be competitive and sustainable at that level.”
Over the next four months the RFU, Premiership Rugby and Championship representatives will work on recommendations for changes to the season structures for 2021/22 and beyond for both the Premiership and Championship.
“The RFU Council has taken time to understand and discuss all the factors regarding no relegation for this season so that we act in the best interests of all levels of the game,” said RFU President Jeff Blackett.
“We want to ensure a healthy elite game to support successful winning England teams that generate income to stimulate and preserve the game across all levels.”