Another season ends; another promotion-relegation debate drags on
England’s leading clubs have pounced on London Welsh’s failure to compete in the Premiership and used it as a key weapon in their regular quest to ring-fence English rugby’s top flight. Twenty-two straight league defeats does not make pretty reading for the Exiles or the league as a whole but they have been handicapped since before even the start of the season.
Denied the same amount of central funding as their Premiership rivals, the timing of the Championship season means that their place among the elite is not confirmed until what seems like mid-summer and so their recruitment plans are hampered badly to say the least.
The fear of relegation can inspire thrilling and crowd-pleasing rugby at the wrong end of the table to rival that being played in the battle for silverware with teams fighting lives and players for their livelihoods. London Welsh may have failed spectacularly this season, but the likes of Exeter have thrived. Long-term financial planning may be hindered by uncertainty but drama puts bums on seats.
By all means engineer an expansion to the Premiership that will see sides clearly capable of competing – Bristol and Worcester – given an invite to the party but do not bolt the door.
Promotion and relegation must remain with a play-off between the Championship winners and the Premiership basement side perhaps the most likely compromise.