Clubs ready for a new showdown

Rugby Union

England's senior clubs are digging in for yet another round of trench warfare with their governing body, this time over the Rugby Football Union's decision to change the promotion and relegation rules between the top two divisions of the Courage League. The fact that a final accord between the two sides on the main political issues arising from professionalism is now at an advanced stage of legal refinement makes the latest outbreak of hostilities doubly ironic.

All 12 current first division clubs and a number of their colleagues in Courage League Two are objecting forcibly to last weekend's surprise RFU move to a four-down, two-up arrangement - the second season in succession that the goalposts have been shifted midway through a campaign. The original plan, also designed with a 10-team top flight in mind, had been based on a three-down, one-up system complete with play-offs.

With two of English rugby's traditional powers, Bristol and Gloucester, now in unexpected strife, the first division clubs are pressing for the 12-team top flight to be maintained - a means of restricting relegation to the bottom two in the table rather than the bottom third. "We've written to Twickenham to that effect and we're serious about it," said David Tyler, the Bristol general manager. "The decision taken by the competitions' sub-committee of the RFU at the end of last week came out of the blue. It was a bombshell. We're standing up for principles here; the RFU are preaching reconciliation and togetherness on the one hand while on the other, they are making moves like this without the slightest attempt at consultation with the very clubs affected."

The RFU have been lobbied by some of the richer second division clubs, notably Richmond, for two guaranteed promotion places. They are unlikely to want to switch back again - the need to save face was a contributing factor in prolonging this year's conflict over financial management and control of broadcasting rights - but the timing of last weekend's announcement has infuriated the clubs every bit as much as the content.

As usual in the brave new world of professional rugby, the issues under debate get more complex at every turn. Lurking beneath the row over relegation is the Welsh lobby, which wants to see a dramatic expansion of continental competition next season. Clubs like Cardiff are keen to play the Heineken European Cup on a home-and-away basis, a move that would commit the most successful sides to between 16-20 matches.

"In my opinion, the European competitions are just about right as they are," said Tyler. "We could expand them slightly and still maintain a 12-team domestic league, but any move to double the amount of matches would clearly be incompatible."

n Moseley, of the second division, look like escaping punishment for playing an unregistered player, Andy Freke, in last month's defeat at Bedford. The League organisers have said they do not intend punishing them for a genuine mistake.

News
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food and drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Voices
A Siberian Tiger
voices
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

SAP BW BO

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried