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

Saracens
Wasps
Bath
Gloucester
Worcester Warriors
Northampton Saints
Yorkshire Carnegie
Doncaster

Exeter Chiefs
Leicester Tigers
Newcastle Falcons
Sale Sharks
Harlequins
London Irish
Bristol
Cornish Pirates

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?

Photos: www.photosport.nz

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.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting take. As an exiles fan I am worried about us and Bristol just switching places consistently whilst feeding other clubs with our academies. This would provide an answer both player welfare and the current issue around relegation. Perhaps Bedford would be worth a shout here too, I would say over the pirates. Not entirely convinced but a strong case and well written. Thanks for the enjoyable read!

    • Thanks for the comment Ehren, I’m happy you enjoyed it. I hadn’t really considered Bedford but they might well be a good choice if this sort of re-organisation is ever considered for real! I had high hopes for you guys after the Harlequins game and I rate Kennedy highly, but it’s a tough old competition this year. Fingers crossed!

  2. I’m not entirely convinced, but one point I would add is I’d like to see the conferences organised to keep derby matches wherever possible. For example, as a Tigers fan I’d want Saints in our conference. Not only does this reduce travel time & expense for the team and the fans, the Saints derbies are invariably some of the tastiest in our calendar.

    On a side note, my mate who plays for Bahrain RFC speaks very highly of you Quins lads!

    • Rob. I think the Pro14 have added this into games e.g. the welsh teams will still play each other. So may be this could be added somehow as well. But you would need to make sure that one conference is a lot weaker than the other.

    • Hi Rob, thanks for the comment! I am a Tigers fan too, and I wouldn’t want to miss out on the second Saints game either. I thought about regional based conferences, a rough North/South split to keep all the derbies. I can definitely see the argument, but I weighed that against keeping the integrity of the competition and making sure both conferences were equally competitive. I think the Pro14 version is also a bit unwieldy but lets see how that pans out.

      Bahrain are a good bunch of lads too, I’ve seem them playing our 1s a few times and they’re a very good side. A shame they’re not in the social league, as I’d like to have an away game there one day.

  3. Daniel. Something definitely needs to be done. I guess we can see how the Pro14 works and maybe we could invoke something like this. I guess there could also be the possibility of further SA clubs coming up and that might force this kind of change if any of them come to the premiership.

    However, the idea of promoting our own teams would be my preferred option. The RFU needs to look at this and soon or we going to burn out our players.

    • Hi Hux, thanks for posting. The SA sides would certainly be more competitive than our Championship sides, at least early on. I believe there have been discussions about it but I’ve not seen any proposals for how it would work yet. I’d love to see a Lions v Saracens game! I do obviously agree with you about promoting our own though. The Pro14 is definitely working this year. We will see how they go in the long run but so far so good. You are spot on about the burnout too, it can’t go on like this.

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