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RFU statement: 14-team Championship agreed in principle for 2025/26

By Liam Heagney
Coventry's Patrick Pellegrini goes on the attack (Photo by John Coles)

Rugby administrators in England have agreed in principle that the 2025/26 Championship should consist of 14 clubs, two more than will compete in the 2024/25 second tier.

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Promoted Chinnor will join the current 11 clubs in next season’s league but the decision on how the Championship would jump to 14 the year after – be it the revival of fallen clubs such as Wasps or the promotion of more teams from National One – won’t be taken until the next meeting in June.

A statement read: “The RFU council approved the principle that tier two will comprise 14 clubs for season 2025/26. Between the April and June council meetings further modelling around 12, 14, and 16 club league structures, balancing commercial and performance with player welfare, will take place.

Video Spacer

Patrick Pellegrini on going from the Championship to playing for Tonga

Coventry’s Patrick Pellegrini explains what it was like to suddenly jump into a test rugby environment, with some big names around him.

Video Spacer

Patrick Pellegrini on going from the Championship to playing for Tonga

Coventry’s Patrick Pellegrini explains what it was like to suddenly jump into a test rugby environment, with some big names around him.

The precise mechanism for the selection of additional clubs will be worked on and presented at the June council meeting.

“Whilst a 14-team structure is preferable at this stage, a 16-team option is considered to be an aspirational goal for the league’s growth and development, and additional work is required to assess the future optimum number. Further recommendations will be brought to the June council meeting.

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“Season 2024/25 will be a Championship of 12 clubs, comprising the 11 existing Championship clubs and the winner of National One (Chinnor RFC).

“Council approved a process for existing Championship clubs to validate and evidence their ability to meet the ‘essential’ minimum operating standards, and other matters, in order to participate in the new tier two league, which will ultimately be decided by the tier two management board.

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“Championship clubs, and Chinnor RFC, winner of National One, will be communicated with around the process for self-validation and provision of additional evidence.

“Discussions around promotion and relegation to/from the Premiership are ongoing as part of the Professional Game Partnership, which would require council approval and will be brought to the June meeting.”

The statement also explained how the management of the ruling tier two board will be structured. “The composition of a tier two management board will be three representatives from each of the RFU and Championship clubs committee with an independent chair.

“The objective for the board is to create a body with independent, club and RFU representation responsible for decision-making for certain decisions relating to the league, giving it the ability to respond to the new tier two specific context.

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“It will also streamline the interactions with the delivery functions and club representations to ensure the optimal running and commercialisation of the league. The tier two management board will be put in place at the earliest opportunity.”

The RFU council further agreed on “revised and enhanced” minimum operating standards. “Aligned to the growth ambitions for the league, the standards have been divided into three categories:

  • Essential – Standards that must be in place by the start of the 2025/26 season in order to participate in the league;
  • Phased essential – Standards will be introduced to the league as determined by the tier two management board;
  • Aspirational – Standards linking to those for the Premiership, providing clubs seeking promotion with a benchmark to work towards.”

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D
Diarmid 9 hours ago
Players and referees must cut out worrying trend in rugby – Andy Goode

The guy had just beasted himself in a scrum and the blood hadn't yet returned to his head when he was pushed into a team mate. He took his weight off his left foot precisely at the moment he was shoved and dropped to the floor when seemingly trying to avoid stepping on Hyron Andrews’ foot. I don't think he was trying to milk a penalty, I think he was knackered but still switched on enough to avoid planting 120kgs on the dorsum of his second row’s foot. To effectively “police” such incidents with a (noble) view to eradicating play acting in rugby, yet more video would need to be reviewed in real time, which is not in the interest of the game as a sporting spectacle. I would far rather see Farrell penalised for interfering with the refereeing of the game. Perhaps he was right to be frustrated, he was much closer to the action than the only camera angle I've seen, however his vocal objection to Rodd’s falling over doesn't legitimately fall into the captain's role as the mouthpiece of his team - he should have kept his frustration to himself, that's one of the pillars of rugby union. I appreciate that he was within his rights to communicate with the referee as captain but he didn't do this, he moaned and attempted to sway the decision by directing his complaint to the player rather than the ref. Rugby needs to look closely at the message it wants to send to young players and amateur grassroots rugby. The best way to do this would be to apply the laws as they are written and edit them where the written laws no longer apply. If this means deleting laws such as ‘the put in to the scrum must be straight”, so be it. Likewise, if it is no longer necessary to respect the referee’s decision without questioning it or pre-emptively attempting to sway it (including by diving or by shouting and gesticulating) then this behaviour should be embraced (and commercialised). Otherwise any reference to respecting the referee should be deleted from the laws. You have to start somewhere to maintain the values of rugby and the best place to start would be giving a penalty and a warning against the offending player, followed by a yellow card the next time. People like Farrell would rapidly learn to keep quiet and let their skills do the talking.

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