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.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower