Warriors' Duckworth calls for ring-fencing
May 30, 2012
Cecil Duckworth's side won the Championship play-offs in 2011 © Getty Images
Worcester Warriors owner Cecil Duckworth has called for the Aviva Premiership to be expanded to 14 teams and to be ring-fenced for three years.
With neither of the Championship finalists the Cornish Pirates or London Welsh currently in the frame for promotion, it looks likely that the Newcastle Falcons have been granted a stay of execution and will be in the Premiership next term despite finishing at the foot of the table. While London Welsh look set to appeal the RFU's decision to block their entry to the Premiership on the grounds that their nominated ground - Oxford United's Kassam Stadium - failed to pass the minimum standard's criteria required for entry to the top-flight, Worcester's Duckworth has criticised the system in its current guise.
"I know the people at Newcastle well but normally if you finish bottom you get relegated," Duckworth told the Guardian. "To be saved by this [issue] makes the whole process questionable. And what does it all mean if only one or two sides in the second tier can possibly come up?
"If you go into a competition in which promotion is the prize and you don't qualify, it's flawed isn't it? Any ordinary person would say this is nonsense yet the RFU has sanctioned it. The whole thing needs to be looked at again."
Duckworth's suggestion is to impose a temporary ring-fencing of the Premiership and he has also questioned whether London Welsh will be able to compete in the top-flight even if they are successful in overturning the RFU's decision. He said: "What chance have they got of surviving and offering worthwhile opposition in the Premiership if they only get promoted on 30 May and they don't know if they meet the criteria? Newcastle can't plan either because of the uncertainty.
"I've been saying for a long time we should go to 14 clubs and give everyone three years without relegation. The Championship clubs also need a period of time to get their house in order and spend money on improving facilities. At least half of them should have grounds that qualify.
"The Nottinghams and Doncasters are an enthusiastic bunch but are they ever going to be successful Premiership operations? I wouldn't think so, being honest, and you do worry about London Welsh if they win. The public will be sympathetic but can they really, at this late stage, be a credible Premiership side? If there was a moratorium and they had three years to establish themselves, it would probably be different."
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