Premiership: RFU considers ring-fencing top flight

Saracens celebrate winning the Premiership in 2019

A plan to ring-fence the English Premiership and create a draft system of young players is being considered by the Rugby Football Union.

Former Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths has proposed a complete rebranding of the Championship.

The second-tier would be split into two conferences – one for the north and one for the south.

BBC Sport understands the RFU and Griffiths have had a “constructive meeting”, with discussions continuing.

The 76-page document focuses on developing talented young English players, with the establishment of a new pathway for players through regional academies and an unprecedented draft system – similar to the NFL and NBA blueprint in the USA.

There would also be a four-year pause on promotion and relegation to and from the top flight, while the Championship would be independently governed in order to avoid “a sludge of self-interest and compromise” which affects other leagues.

The report adds that the Championship would “swim against the tide” when it comes to player welfare.

“In recent years, the conventional wisdom within rugby has been that the best way to generate more revenue is to arrange more matches, with unintended consequences of increased injuries and spectator fatigue of the same old, same old,” the document reads.

“The English Championship will swim against the tide, and embrace the proven reality that, in elite sport, more revenue is generated by staging fewer, bigger matches.”

The plan was circulated to Premiership clubs at the weekend, while the RFU insists the Championship remains “a very important part of the English rugby landscape” despite funding cuts.

“We welcome an innovative approach to developing the potential of the Championship in the interests of English rugby which is aligned across all championship clubs, leagues, and the RFU,” said an RFU spokesperson.

“We also welcome initiatives that attract more investment in the game and support more self-sustainable financial stability.”

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BBC Sport – Rugby Union

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