Rotherham set to find route into Premiership blocked

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The Independent Online

Rotherham are likely to find that Premiership rugby has been denied them when the final decision on their promotion to the top flight is officially announced at Twickenham this afternoon.

Rotherham are likely to find that Premiership rugby has been denied them when the final decision on their promotion to the top flight is officially announced at Twickenham this afternoon.

England Rugby Limited reached their conclusions on Tuesday and will inform all interested parties of their decision first. However, it is widely anticipated that the National League champions will be told they have not met the minimum criteria laid down by ERL and will have to accept £750,000 "compensation" for another season outside England's élite.

The outcome is set to rob the Premiership of an exciting finale with at least three clubs – Leeds, Bath and Saracens – all fearing demotion and Harlequins also fearing the prospect of being dragged back into trouble.

The relegation issue has been at the centre of heated arguments over the past few months, with critics such as the Quins chief executive, Mark Evans, believing that the top flight should be sealed off completely to allow élite clubs to build without worrying over loss of status and cash.

Evans believes that approach will lead to clubs being able to present a more robust business plan for the future, giving the 15-man code growth he believes would not happen if relegation continues to exists. The counter-argument is that lack of promotion would also stunt ambition both inside and outside the top flight, with clubs effectively not facing any penalty for poor performance.

Rotherham are still hoping to hear some good news, trusting that an eleventh hour ground-share deal with their football neighbours at Millmoor will help them. Opposing clubs complained bitterly about the poor facilities at their Clifton Lane home on their previous visit to the Premiership two years ago.

Millmoor apparently satisfies all major ground criteria, so the reason for the ERL's anticipated decision is not known, although the administration structure of the South Yorkshire club is thought to have been somewhat vague.

If Rotherham are excluded, the decision is sure to draw stinging criticism from those who believe the Premiership has become a closed shop.

With Fulham set to move in at Loftus Road next season, Wasps have still not found an alternative venue for their home games. A move to Wycombe is now the subject of an appeal after an initial application was rejected, while Oxford's Kassam Stadium or a move across London to join Harlequins at The Stoop are among the other possibilities.

Saracens, London Irish and Bristol all share their grounds with football clubs, and the first two do not fulfil the "primacy of tenure" demanded from all promoted teams for any ground-share deals agreed after 31 March.

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