Rotherham's promotion confirmed at last

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The good news for Rotherham is that finally, after two triumphant campaigns in National League One and more discussions over ground facilities and business infrastructure than it would be possible to calculate, they can consider themselves a Premiership club. The bad news? The first 80 minutes of their brave new future will be spent at Kingsholm in Gloucester, the home of England's champions elect. It could be painful, in more ways than one.

The good news for Rotherham is that finally, after two triumphant campaigns in National League One and more discussions over ground facilities and business infrastructure than it would be possible to calculate, they can consider themselves a Premiership club. The bad news? The first 80 minutes of their brave new future will be spent at Kingsholm in Gloucester, the home of England's champions elect. It could be painful, in more ways than one.

Still, the prospect of a tortuous September afternoon in front of the least merciful crowd in European rugby will not faze the Yorkshiremen one little bit. They have suffered all manner of public indignities since winning last season's second-tier championship – an achievement that would, under normal circumstances, have elevated them to the top flight last September – but as of last night, when the board of England Rugby Ltd unanimously agreed to their promotion after rejecting them 12 months ago, the interminable frustration is so much history.

After two delays last week – the Premiership contingent on ERL wanted "clarification" on a number of aspects of the Rotherham audit – agreement was reached at the third time of asking. "We congratulate Rotherham and wish the club a successful campaign next season," ERL said in a brief statement. There was no mention of the rumpus last Thursday, when the clubs blocked promotion to the fury of the Rugby Football Union delegates who make up 50 per cent of the board, and no whiff of the behind-the-scenes accusations of closed-shop chicanery. Suddenly, all is sweetness and light.

Rotherham, who lost 20 of their 22 matches during their only previous Premiership effort in 2000-01, will replace Bristol. As they are on the edge of the financial abyss – Malcolm Pearce, their main investor, is about to cut the cord, amid persistent rumours that he is about to purchase a controlling interest in neighbouring Bath – this is a highly convenient solution to what threatened to become a nasty political squabble. Had Bath or London Irish finished bottom, yesterday's confirmation may well have taken rather longer.

There is still the small matter of the Arlidge Inquiry to settle. This was set in train after allegations that Rotherham received offers of money from Premiership clubs in return for declining promotion at the end of the last season, and the papers are now with Robert Horner, the RFU's disciplinary officer. Should Rotherham be found guilty of any malpractice – and they could hardly be alone, given the nature of the accusations – English club rugby would find itself neck deep in a scandal of unprecedented proportions. However, officials of the promoted club are confident the report will exonerate them.

Having played all their previous Premiership home games at Clifton Lane, an outdated venue that fell well short of the standards agreed by the elite clubs three seasons ago, Rotherham will now do their thing at Millmoor, the home of the town's professional football club.

It is as good a year as any for Rotherham to come up. From the end of next season, automatic promotion and relegation will almost certainly be replaced by a play-off between the bottom Premiership team and the National League One champions.

Comments