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Championship Rugby statement: Unanimous opposition to Premiership 2

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Championship Rugby clubs have quashed RFU hopes that a Premiership 2 franchise model might be set up in the future in England to underpin the Gallagher Premiership.

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It was last month, in the wake of the demise of 2022/23 Championship champions Jersey Reds, when Bill Sweeney, the RFU CEO, stressed their commitment to second-tier rugby.

He said at the time: “We firmly believe that a strong second tier is important for the development of the game. It is not something that is easy to get right. We have had consistent talks with the Championship clubs since a meeting in Farnborough last February.

“We have been talking about the shape of Premiership 2, academies, player development and mechanisms. We have not been able to confirm the level of funding which will have to wait until the professional game partnership is agreed.

“We have said we will advise them ahead of next season and there has been much more dialogue than before. It has been a challenge but we are committed to it and would ideally like to have a system similar to France, but the average attendance in the Championship is 1,300. We need to grow that and it will not happen overnight.”

The 11 remaining Championship clubs met on Friday to consider their next steps and they decided not to back the franchise model. A statement read: “The 11 Championship clubs came together today to debate their collective future: whether our league will be best served by capitalising on the potential of its commercial rights and its brand-identity to underpin a truly ‘whole-game solution’ to tier two, or by considering a putative Premiership 2 based on a franchise model.

“The clubs agreed unanimously that they are opposed to the franchise model. This was concluded against the backdrop of:

  1. Our desire to find whole-game solutions rather than creating obstacles within the pyramid of club rugby;
  2. Significant doubt about whether there would ever be promotion and relegation into and from the Premiership – a basic question of fairness;
  3. Our objection to a franchise model that would allow non-meritocratic entry to P2;
  4. Our unwillingness to commit to a tender process.

“The Championship clubs also agreed that they would continue discussions with the RFU while simultaneously exploring concrete ways of strengthening our existing league.

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“Our aim is to sustain a second tier of English rugby that adheres to the following principles:

  • The Championship will be at the top of the competitive pyramid in England, open to all clubs who have the ability, aspiration and ambition to compete in it;

  • The clubs intend to participate in the most competitive environment possible, with the ultimate objective of reaching the very top, assuming there is equitable treatment by those currently controlling that route;

  • We intend to be financially sustainable and will rigorously explore and exploit the potential of the commercial rights and brand identity that our league possesses;

  • We will offer the highest level of professionalism affordable, aligned with the amateur ethos we hold dear and which is at the heart of the game;

  • Through the history of our clubs, we represent the proudest traditions and values of rugby and so we will continue to build our community relationships and encourage rugby at all levels;

  • We commit to working with the RFU and PRL to grow the game from the grassroots upwards, with a focus on developing and encouraging young players as part of a pathway to the top. This will feed through into National teams at all levels;

  • We will work with the RPA to set the highest standards for player welfare and education.

“We hope and expect that the Rugby Football Union will wish to continue to support our league as part of a whole-game approach to solving the sport’s challenges. This league, as its principles make clear, will fulfil vital roles in the development of the game in England.

“It would, if permitted, also continue to act as a connecting bridge between the Premiership, the England national set-up and the rest of the sport at National League and all other levels.

“We believe this is the only sustainable way forward. It ensures the integrity and the competitive heartbeat of our sport. It will be the best guarantee available for the success of future efforts to improve the quality of play and the quantity of participation, from top to bottom, of English rugby.

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“On the vexed matter of promotion and relegation, we will always believe in the right of the best to rise to the top. At present, the well-identified barriers put in our way make this a pipedream, but we will work unceasingly to challenge and correct this.

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“Along with other observers, we have to acknowledge the position in which the Premiership finds itself, and we all have to find a sustainable way forward. For the National Leagues and below, we would welcome the competition that our vision of the future guarantees, a future based on on-field success.

“Having agreed on these principles, the Championship clubs have authorised the executive of the Championship to go ahead with the production of a comprehensive plan for our continuing league to be presented to other stakeholders in the game as soon as practicable.

“We fully appreciate the consequential effects of our decision to reject a franchise system. However, we feel certain that we have taken account of all the key components that can form a successful and sustainable recovery of rugby in this country, at least as far as it concerns the elements of the future that we can influence.”

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Comments

2 Comments
B
Brunhildes 209 days ago

Good. I wouldn’t want to get into bed anymore than is absolutely necessary with the horrorshow of the Premiership and the RFU under Sweeney.

J
Jon 211 days ago

This is awesome, much respect. Premiership clubs have there own second tier league don’t they? Those players should really be playing in the national leagues like the Championship. I assume an automatic qualification spot in both european tournaments would be an improvement and incentive as well?

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