RFU reveal details of league shake-up
November 15, 2008
RFU Management Board Chairman Martyn Thomas insists the new set-up will "give the clubs more financial security than ever before" © Getty Images
Major changes to the shape of English club rugby will take place next season following the approval of proposals to create a 12-team Championship division and to restructure competitions for teams in Levels Three to Six of the league system.
The RFU Council last night backed recommendations from the RFU Management Board for the Championship to form a new professional tier below the Guinness Premiership, with Council voting against an amendment deferring its formation until 2010/11.
It also approved recommendations from the Rugby Landscape Task Group that include discontinuing the National Trophy and Intermediate Cup competitions; expanding the leagues at levels three and four to 16 clubs per division and at levels five and six to 14 clubs per division; the introduction of National Championship Finals; and the introduction of reserve leagues at levels three, four and five.
"Council spent three and a half hours debating these important issues and I thank them for giving them such careful consideration," said Martyn Thomas, the Chairman of the RFU Management Board.
"Negotiations over the reduction of the size of First Division Rugby have been taking place since November last year and there was universal agreement that moving to a 12-club league was the way forward.
"It is the best way to ensure a high level of competition that will accelerate the development of young English players, coaches and referees, and Council decided that the journey should start as soon as possible.
"Clearly the league will not become fully professional overnight and there is much detail to be put in place but we look forward to doing so with stakeholders from First Division Rugby, the National Clubs Association [who represent levels three and four] and the Professional Rugby Players Association."
Further discussions will take place about a meaningful fixture list that will guarantee a minimum of 32 games for Championship clubs each season consisting of league games and other competitive matches, including a proposed two-tier Anglo-Welsh competition.
Live television coverage has been secured with the agreement of Sky and Championship clubs will receive projected central funding of £3.5million in 2009/10 that will rise to £4.8m by season 2015/16.
At the end of this season one club will be promoted from the existing National League One into the Guinness Premiership, five clubs will be moved to Level 3 and one promoted from Level 3 to form the Championship.
Council also approved recommendations from the Rugby Landscape Task Group that will make other significant changes to the structure of the game in England.
In the new structure, the Championship will sit above a new National League One, National Two North and National Two South, and four divisions in the National Three tier.
From 2009/10 the new National One, National Two North and National Two South division will increase in size from 14 to 16 clubs. The four National Three divisions (London, Midlands, North and South West) will increase in size from 12 to 14 clubs.
Other changes include the introduction of National Finals at levels four, five and six; discontinuing The National Trophy and Intermediate Cup competitions; the creation of a reserve team competition for the 104 second teams from clubs in National 1, 2 and 3 - and suitable teams from levels two and six - followed by national finals; and a review of the existing county championship competition.
"The competitive structure is critical to the sustainability of our member clubs," said Terry Burwell, the RFU Director of Tournaments and Competitions. "Providing a dynamic league programme for all levels of the game will ensure increased competitiveness and commercial attractiveness.
"The Rugby Landscape consultation process has been robust and well-received and has succeeded in providing an agreed solution in a very short timescale. We can now move forward to implementing the new structure for 2009/10."
The Task Group was chaired by RFU Senior Vice President John Owen, who thanked the thousands of participants who took part in the consultation process.
"We were delighted to be able to engage 7,500 people from all parts of our game who responded to our online survey and made their views known," said Owen. "We also staged 11 roadshows around the country and a two-day summit in Woking to make sure we delivered changes that would be of lasting benefit to our clubs."
What happens at the end of season 2008/09?:
Level 1: Guinness Premiership - 12 clubs.
Level 2: National One (currently 16 clubs)
Level 3: National Two (currently 14 clubs)
Level 4: National Three North & South - (currently 14 clubs)
Level 5: Divisional One (currently four divisions of 12 clubs)
Level 6: Divisional Two (currently eight divisions of 12 clubs)
The new league structure for season 2009/10:
Level 1: Guinness Premiership - 12 clubs.
Level 2: The Championship - 12 clubs (currently 16), replacing National One
Level 3: National One - 16 clubs (14), replacing National Two
Level 4: National Two North & South - 16 clubs (14), replacing National Three North & South
Level 5: National Three (four divisions) - 14 clubs (currently 12), replacing divisional leagues
Level 6: Divisional 1 (eight divisions) - 14 clubs (or less if agreed, currently 12)
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