There will be no relegation from the Gallagher Premiership or the RFU Championship in 2021, it has been decided.

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The collaborative agreement across the RFU, Championship and Premiership Rugby sees the top-flight competition expanded to 13 teams from next season.

There will be no relegation from the top-flight into the Championship at the end of the 2020-21 season and no relegation from the Championship into National One. Promotion into the Gallagher Premiership remains for the winner of the Championship.

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The move potentially paves the way for a ring-fenced 13 team Premiership which includes fallen giants Saracens.

A statement reads: “The RFU Council today cast a strong majority vote in favour of no relegation from the Gallagher Premiership or the Greene King IPA Championship for the 2020/21 season.

“Council members considered the impact Covid-19 has had on all areas of the game, including the earlier decision to suspend promotion and relegation in the community game and the Gallagher Premiership cancelling a significant number of matches in the 2020/21 season. These cancellations have resulted in a material impact on league positions which could mean relegation based on cancellation not on field merit.”

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.

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“It is hoped that proposals will include a different approach to promotion and relegation from the Gallagher Premiership. The aim will be to retain the ambition of clubs in the Greene King IPA Championship and below and to continue to allow a route to promotion to the Gallagher Premiership. New minimum standard criteria, investment in facilities and club funding will be discussed. The domestic calendar will be reviewed, which will also allow additional preparation time for the England senior men’s team ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023.

“Player welfare will be central to the proposals and the RPA will be consulted on the development of season structures. It is likely that any season structures may also include a further moratorium on promotion and relegation for three or four seasons, after which the structure will be subject to further review. Those proposals would be subject to a vote of the RFU Council before the end of the 2020/21 season.”

Speaking about the RFU Council vote, RFU President, HH Jeff Blackett said; “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. 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. The Council will continue to be closely engaged with the proposals from the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Championship to ensure we maintain the integrity of the future league structures for England Rugby.”

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Darren Childs, Chief-Executive of Premiership Rugby said: “We welcome today’s decision and thank the RFU Council members for their support. The priority for everyone involved has been to protect the long-term sustainability and success of English professional rugby for the fans and clubs who have endured huge financial and sporting challenges throughout the last two seasons.

“The progress being made collaboratively with all our key stakeholders across the sport has been fantastic. Our focus remains on continuing to strengthen that alignment through transparency and dialogue around the long-term success of the game at a domestic and national level in England.”

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