Plans among Premiership clubs to do away with relegation to the Championship amount to little more than “wishful thinking”, according to Rugby Football Union (RFU) interim chief executive Nigel Melville.
The 12 top-flight teams are set to begin discussions about expanding the division to include a 13th side, abolishing the one-up-one-down format in the process.
But former England captain Melville rejected the possibility of such changes being brought into effect any time soon.
“I think that’s called wishful thinking isn’t it?” he said. “Suddenly people want something to happen now. Well, no, that’s not how it works.
“It’s a competition regulated by the RFU. Should Premier Rugby want to change their structure, they can bring that to the PGB [Professional Game Board] for a vote there and then it would be put to the [RFU] Council. Nothing is going to change as regards this season.
“It’s been talked about since 1995, and usually about this time of year. It’s always when you’ve got a bunch of teams on the brink of a relegation scenario.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) December 2, 2018
“This year, we’ve got six or seven teams within four points of each other, all looking over their shoulder thinking, ‘it’s going to be one of us’.
“Those are the regulations, that’s what’s going to happen this year – one team will go down, one team will be promoted. If we do want to look at this in the future, it will have to be approved by the RFU.
“You’ve got to look at the integrity of these competitions. We have 13 teams effectively – 12 in the Premiership, one gets relegated each year and that team’s bouncing back up again.
“Is that good for the Championship? You would question that. We need a few more teams to compete. The gap is getting wider and wider as the wage bills increase. We’ve got to really think about it.”
After nine rounds of the 2018-19 Premiership season, Newcastle Falcons sit bottom with 15 points, although sixth-placed Bath are only four points better off.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now