I think the English Premiership should be expanded to 16 teams. I think player welfare demands having fewer games with a longer offseason. And I think there is a way we can have both.
Switch to a conference system, and scrap the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
The Anglo-Welsh competition is great for bringing through young players. Sam Simmonds, Tom Curry and Nick Isiekwe are just a few of the names who starred in it last year. Last week Exeter played at Scarlets and won 0-40. Scarlets gave a team of young kids from the Welsh Premiership their first taste of professional rugby. Exeter had players coming back from injury, such as Sam Hill, players trying to force their way into Rob Baxter’s plans, such as Matt Kvesic, and young players gaining valuable experience like Sam Skinner.
But that is what the A-League is for. We simply don’t need a competition like this if we use the A-League properly. Players can also be dual-registered to play in the Championship.
Example Conference Split
How would the conferences work?
Create 2 conferences of 8 teams. Teams play every other team in their conference, home and away. Teams play every team in the other conference either home or away, swapping each year like the 6 Nations. Every 2 years, conferences would be reorganized to even out the quality of each, in a similar way to the Pro14. This would give a 22 game regular season, the same as right now. The playoffs would also be the same.
What about the mismatches?
Relegation would be suspended for 4 years. This would affect no-one, as 4 teams will have been promoted. With RFU help, 4 years should be enough time for the newly promoted sides to develop their teams and become competitive. Funding more professional sides would be difficult, but if anyone has money in rugby then it is surely the RFU.
Why choose Cornish Pirates, Doncaster, Bristol and Yorkshire?
It doesn’t have to be those teams, but Yorkshire is a real rugby hotbed and has supported 2 top teams before. Cornwall I believe could also support a team. Bristol is a no-brainer with their history, squad, facilities and finances. Other candidates may be better than the ones I have suggested; Ealing Trailfinders are second in the Championship right now for example.
I think this idea would both grow the game and help player welfare by decreasing the number of games each team has. I love the Premiership right now, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better. What do you think?
Author: Daniel Pugsley
I am a 31 year old from Yorkshire, England. I have played social rugby for 25 years in England, Japan, Italy, Poland and the UAE. I teach English as a foreign language, which explains why I’ve lived in so many places. I recently moved back to England and have had to take a break from playing, but I hope to pull on the boots again soon.