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Ex-England skipper Hartley weighs in on whether Saracens should be automatically allowed rejoin the Premiership

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Ex-England skipper Dylan Hartley is all for Saracens getting automatically promoted back to the Premiership if the 2020/21 Championship is cancelled, adding that he had no issues either with Ealing being allowed to potentially buy their way into next year’s top flight. 

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Amid increasing concerns that the Championship will not go ahead in the new year due to anxiety over costs, it has been reported that talks are afoot to welcome Saracens back into the Premiership without kicking a ball in the second-tier.  

It has also been suggested that Ealing, who are backed by Trailfinders boss Mike Gooley, could be allowed to spend £20million buying P shares to pave their way for inclusion in a 14-team Premiership in 2021/22.

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Dylan Hartley on whether Saracens should be allowed promotion if the Championship season is cancelled

This unprecedented manoeuvring of granting two teams promotion without kicking a ball would likely be controversial but Hartley, who skippered Northampton to the Premiership title in 2014 having spent the 2007/08 season playing in the Championship, has no hang-ups regarding the inclusion of Saracens and Ealing.

Co-hosting the latest episode of the RugbyPass Offload show, Hartley didn’t hesitate in backing the idea that Saracens can return without playing a single minute in the second tier. He said: “It’s a good thing. I don’t think Champ rugby can afford to go back. There are suggestions of mothballing or freezing it. Sarries coming back up automatically should be a given. 

“So much has happened. The sport is on its arse. The Premiership is on its arse especially, most clubs are paying about a million quid a month and nothing is coming in so if there is a time (to go) what’s done is done, when we finally get crowds back and a league back, I don’t have a problem with Sarries coming back up because they were going to come back up and there is no league for them to play in at the moment, the Championship. 

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“We would all be worse off for not seeing those England internationals play and they add to the competition when they are not cheating and they fly a flag of hope in terms of English rugby… they are good for the sport and that’s coming from me who hated Sarries for years playing against them and hated what they did. 

“But if you look at the big picture of where the game is at, we need some good news stories. If they stick to the bloody cap, play their England players and keep developing future England players and compete in tournaments, they are good for gates, good for kids,” he continued before going on to endorse the speculation that Ealing could flash the cash and pay for their promotion.

“If Ealing have serious aspirations, which they do, they have got serious cash… if they have got money and a long-term plan, I don’t have a problem with it. There will be cries of Leeds and teams from the north but a ring-fenced league would be good. Coming out of Covid, the time to do it would be now.”

Fellow host Jamie Roberts, the ex-Wales midfielder who featured in the Premiership for Harlequins and Bath, wasn’t sold on the idea of ring-fencing, however. “Obviously Saracens would be desperate to get back up and I have no doubt if they did play the season they would be good enough to win every game at a canter and get back promoted,” he said.

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“The problem with ring-fencing is do you squash the ambitions of those trying to come up and then does it just become this league where teams are existing and not striving to play at a higher level and do you completely relieve the pressure on relegation from the Premiership? 

“For supporters and for players, that pressure is arguably what makes the league – at the bottom end of the table and the top end. God knows what is going to happen if this Championship season can’t be played, what the right thing is, whether Ealing can potentially buy their way in? Can other clubs then turnaround and say hang on a minute, we want to be in the Premiership as well? What’s the fairest solution?”   

 

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Ex-England skipper Hartley weighs in on whether Saracens should be automatically allowed rejoin the Premiership

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