How to fix Premiership rugby

Gloucester’s Jack Singleton charging forward – How to fix Premiership rugby – GETTY IMAGES

Wasps’ announcement that they have applied to the High Court to appoint a trustee, following the ongoing Worcester Warriors financial crisis, has thrown the future of Premiership Rugby as we know it into question.

Wasps’ future looks increasingly bleak following Wednesday’s sudden development, and while the club have sought to allay fears about its long-term future, there are serious concerns about the sustainability of English rugby’s top flight.

The current structure of 13 teams, without issue, does not seem fit for purpose. So how could the Premiership be renewed for the good of the game, the spectators and, more importantly, those who depend on it for a living?

Telegraph Sport looks at the best-case scenarios Premiership bosses should consider.

charlie morgan

16 teams, two leagues, 18 games

Clearly, there are caveats here. These team rosters, based on last season’s endings, assume the Wasps and Worcester Warriors escape their respective jams and don’t move down the pyramid. With that in mind, let’s get started.

When it comes to the Premiership, the frustrations fans used to swallow – namely clashes with test fixtures and uncertainty over whether the best team will be available – are becoming more irritating. Something is seriously wrong when an ideal recruit is someone who isn’t good enough for international honors.

Fewer games won’t necessarily mean a hit to profits if the league becomes more marketable, both to fans in attendance and broadcast companies. A reduction in games could lead to more full houses, which everyone wants.

In this 16-team format, you’d have each team play everyone in their own division home and away, with four randomly assigned games, two home, two away, against teams from the other division. The New Zealand Provincial National Championship uses this method, making derbies more regular.

Still, it’s not the end of the world if you go a season without a dispute between Bath and Gloucester, for example. In fact, the rarity would make a gathering more special.

Splitting the top tier caters to big spenders who are eager to raise the salary cap while retaining the intrigue of promotion and relegation. Hopefully, the security of two delimited divisions, on top of a strong community pyramid, makes it less likely that clubs will overreach financially.

Let’s go back to the warnings. Wasps and Worcester may not be close. Other clubs may wish to opt out or participate. A maximum of 20 Premiership matches, keeping the current play-off system, offers breathing space and ensures loaded line-ups.

This structure could be extended to two leagues out of 10, perhaps incorporating Welsh regions. In this case, inter-division matches or play-offs could be scrapped to keep games down. Imagine a compelling title run.

Inevitably, any possible solution raises more questions. Should each division have separate salary caps to ensure fiscal discipline, for example? The Rugby Football Union will have to flex their muscles but, with cans of worms opening everywhere, decision-makers need to grab their tubes.

ben cole

Top level of 10 teams to strengthen the rest of the pyramid

Even before the future of Worcester and the Wasps became shrouded in doubt, it became clear that the current Premiership format (13 teams, no relegation), while only introduced temporarily to help clubs recover from the pandemic, It does not work well.

The resources and talent of the Premiership have been spread too thin, which makes the notion of 14 teams if Ealing promote rather unpleasant, not least because, as Rob Baxter recently pointed out, the best clubs are currently deprived of their best players during too much time. too many games throughout the season, a problem that stems from packing games into an overly congested schedule. Baxter’s comments, which essentially translates to what’s the point of paying top dollar to elite players if you never get to use them, highlights how broken the system has become.

Fewer clubs in the Premier League sadly feels like a necessity, the unfortunate result being that a Wasps or a Worcester might not survive unless they are in the top flight. That’s a painful thought, but so is the idea of ​​clubs spending money they never really have simply to try to stay competitive and subsequently fall into the mire. The feeling in recent weeks has been that the Premiership has overreached itself: how else can it prosper and progress if not by streamlining its product? Twelve teams feels good, but perhaps 10 is the ideal goal, creating a more competitive second division as a result.

The question may also be asked about whether Premiership Rugby is squeezing enough out of its TV rights deal with BT Sport, worth £40m a year. When compared to the top 14 deal with Canal+, worth £99.2m per year, which recently increased terms by 17 per cent, it seems the league has been undervalued.

charles richardson

Two divisions, 14 teams and a four-team playoff, plus relegation

Two seven-team divisions at a higher tier of the Premiership, with Cornish Pirates, Ealing Trailfinders and Doncaster Knights all promoted from the second tier, should Worcester and Wasps be relegated. All teams would play each team twice in a season and then the top two teams in each group would contest the end-of-season play-offs. The team that finishes last in each group is relegated to the second level.

And, in the Championship, he should be invited to join the Premiership Rugby Cup to add flavor and new horizons to a sick competition. Leicester, for example, might think twice about sending an academy team to Nottingham on a Wednesday night, in a reinvention of that once cherished East Midlands derby for the sake of pride. On the contrary, Nottingham would be enthusiastic.

Whatever happens in any potential restructuring of the Premiership – conferences, smaller leagues, a higher second-tier standard, delimitation – derbies are integral to the growth of the league. The East Midlands Derby; the West Country derby; London and North derbies always showcase the best the league has to offer, with packed stadiums and raucous parochialism, and any potential restructuring must preserve these fixtures. If two different groups were created, separating Leicester and Northampton or Gloucester and Bath, among others, would be appalling at best and insane at worst.

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