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Premiership Rugby
Premiership chief dismisses 'cartel' accusation
ESPN Staff
March 29, 2013
Mark McCafferty, Premiership Rugby chief executive,  J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Series launch, Twickenham Stoop, Twickenham, London, July 1, 2010
Premiership Rugby boss Mark McCafferty has defended the funding model used by English rugby's top flight © Getty Images
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Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has rejected claims that English rugby's top flight operates like a 'cartel'.

Gareth Thomas, the MP for Harrow West, has urged Competition Commission to investigate the funding of Premiership teams having highlighted what he believe is an unfair imbalance that means newcomers like London Welsh receive an estimated £2m less than their more established rivals. "There is a clear bias in how funding is distributed against teams promoted to the Premiership. The funding arrangements have all the appearance of a cartel," Thomas said in the House of Commons earlier this week.

"For a newly promoted club the difference in funding is equivalent to being forced to play matches with one hand tied behind your back. It is remarkable that London Welsh have been as competitive as they have been. It is high time this iniquitous state of affairs was put right. Rugby should be a fair contest with clubs battling it out on a level playing field. I have written to the Office of Fair Trading asking for it to request an investigation by the Competition Commission."

Thomas claimed that newly-promoted teams receive £1.4million compared to the £3.5million that goes to established Premiership clubs. Founder members of the Premiership are given a greater share of central funding but McCafferty insists the difference is £800,000 with the system allowing newly-promoted clubs to purchase further shares, that comes with greater financial support, from the relegated club should they cement their place in the top flight.

And McCafferty has denied that he operates a cartel. "I would reject that," he told the Daily Mail. "We need to emphasise that we have promotion and relegation enshrined in our system and so people have access to the top level in England. That is not true, for example, in the RaboDirect PRO12.

"That access is there and history has shown clubs can come through and establish themselves. Premiership Rugby has been a success story and it has been a commercial success and everyone has shared in that."

It is understood that the Office of Fair Trading will take between four and eight weeks to decide whether there is enough evidence for a full investigation with a bullish McCafferty adding: "If you did that you would have to look at all sports. Premier League football doesn't have equal funding for all clubs. Rugby League doesn't have promotion and relegation (every season).

"People need to look at it in the round. Sport needs to organise itself in a way that is reasonable and fair to achieve objectives to grow the game. People will have issues at any point in time about individual things."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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