Poll: Should the Guinness Premiership be closed with no relegation?

As is often the case at this time of year when the fate of one particular club is determined, there has been some discussion of closing off the Guinness Premiership – potentially with the addition of two teams – with no relegation or promotion to and from The Championship

Critics of the relegation format have suggested that English rugby is suffering because of the pressure on every club to win every match they play. This, we are told, encourages a negative style of play where defence is the priority, territorial kicking is rife and the players forget how to run with the ball in hand.

On the other hand, the Guinness Premiership is one of the most competitive leagues in world rugby, and if the threat of relegation was removed, as soon as a club had written off its chances of playing for a place in the playoffs or Heineken Cup, its season is effectively over. With nothing to play for, crowds could stop turning up, players might stop turning up, and dead rubber games are a waste of time.

These two points are just touching the surface of the debate, but we’d like to know your thoughts on the matter – please take our poll and let us know what you think.

Should the Guinness Premiership be closed off with no relegation?

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21 thoughts on “Poll: Should the Guinness Premiership be closed with no relegation?

  1. Great game that needs the element of league competition.

    The problem is that players have gotten too big, I think maybe 90 mins instead of 80 should see a player size reduction.

    Also the reason why players loose the ball so often in contact is that coaches train players to present the ball in contact. Not pass the the ball before contact. Kiwis do this very well.

  2. Personally I’d like to see the competition made to either 14 or 15 teams regardless or whether we keep relegation not not (like the super 14/15) They don’t have the prospect of relegation each session and yet that is one of the best rugby competitions in the world. Maybe knowing that survival isn’t the main objective helps these teams produce a better style of rugby?

    That said, I do like the prospect of relegation too – as it makes the competition fairer – teams from the championship can reach the Premiership etc etc. Plus, with the teams being promoted, they are mainly fielded by English players, which is fantastic for the grass-root levels of the sport and the development of our future stars

  3. Yes but the Super 14 is only 13 weeks long so really no team will play more than about 6 dead rubbers and there aren’t many games with nothing riding on it for either team. You’ll never get the Guinness Premiership to get rid of home and away fixtures so you’d end up with a club out of play off contention after 8 or 10 games playing over half a season of games with nothing riding on them. The Guinness Prem, while there may be some poor games, retains its excitement throughout the season from top to bottom in the table which is a rare thing. One of the reasons teams can chuck the ball around in the Super 14 is that there is not several million pounds hanging on a game.

    Is this desirable? Quite possibly. And it certainly seems to work for the national teams. But the problem is that the Super 14/Magners League exist for a different reason – their structure is centralised whereas, salary cap aside, club rugby in England is a free market, the clubs are self-contained businesses and will remain so. It would be strange in any walk of life to have a perennially unsuccessful business which consistently finished at the bottom of the table propped up while a perennially successful business in the next tier is not rewarded in any way. The Magners League and Super 14 are artificially created competitions which do not have a second tier so do not have these problems. Relegation and promotion are irrelevant.

    To my mind, unless we move to a franchise system which, let’s be honest, is never going to happen, the only way a closed Premiership would work would be if you introduced a draft system like they have in the States. (Cricket is going through a similar debate about the structure of the game at the moment). There, the weakest teams get first shout on the best young players to keep the playing field as level as possible. But this would rob clubs of their crucial sense of community, take young players away from family and friends and generally not be particularly healthy.

    Personally, my priority is a strong England team and it is frustrating that we don’t have that. But club rugby has grown so big that it will not be treated as a lesser partners. Similarly at least half the clubs in the Championship (and a couple in National 1) harbour hopes of playing in the Premiership soon. They would probably have a strong legal case against the RFU if they ring-fenced the Premiership.

    Note that when England was doing very well in the early part of the decade, we were trumpeting the benefits of a competitive, fluid league system over the franchise system. These things go in cycles. I think we need to look at many other areas (academies, lack of a second team league, players turned into gym-eating automatons with nothing but rugby in their lives) before we start blaming the league system. Note also that we have players who are used to playing a succession of games which have a huge amount hanging on them which may explain our over-performance at the last world cup and the under-performance of some of the more fancied teams.

  4. The only thing wrong with relegation is that the gateway is too tight to allow clubs outside the Premiership a chance in the top tier. Often the club that drops one season goes straight back up, and that’s fair enough. It’s likely to happen again this season. But that denies another very good side, the one that came second in the Championship, the chance to test itself against Premiership competition. Anyone for two up, two down?

  5. I’ve never understood the argument that fear of failure stops teams running the ball. You do see some nervousness in the last game or two, but the best way to deal with it is to play to your strengths and go for the win.

    I’m not anti-relegation – I would keep it – but I would prefer to raise the overall standard of the games (by either reducing to ten teams or better still, adopting a S14 approach with the top few clubs from each of home unions included), reduce the overall number of games, and reduce the number of foreign players. The last of those is probably illegal (which is a farce) and the others may as well be, because they are never going to happen. But one of the disadvantages for England players compared to SH counterparts is that they play too many games and too many against mediocre opposition that don’t grow them as elite players.

  6. One of the great things about rugby is the link between the lower clubs where most of us play, and the higher ones. We all have to fund our clubs at whatever level, and take account of promotion/relegation and other financial factors.

    Some sympathy, but Premiership clubs should make financial plans responsibly, and within their means. It has been shown clubs can get re-promoted successfully.

    I would suggest a play-off between the potentially promoted and relegated teams – this would prove which team should be in which league.

  7. Ringfencing would be a disaster.
    Clubs like Pirates and Exeter have invested massively into trying to obtain Premiership status. If that was not attainable there would be an end to ambition and striving to be better on and off the field.
    The ground criteria and the ludicrous parachute payment make it almost a closed shop already – but at least there is hope. Take that away and the game will become stagnant and tedious.
    We in Cornwall have no top flight sport, but The Pirates give us hope that one day we will have a Premiership team. Cornwall has rugby in its celtic culture
    and if we could make the top flight the interest would be huge.

  8. The removal of relegation is a ridiculous idea… probably brought up by the team and fans that have been relegated that season!

    Without relegation where is the competition? This seasons table has been excitement at both ends…. why remove that?

    Plus, we would be effectively killing off the championship where a lot of grassroot British players are playing… when leeds came up this season they showed some great home grown talent that would only ever get better playing in the premiership….. remoing relegation could potentially shut the door to a lot of these players and effectively kill off our international teams in Britain.

    I do however think that the league should be increased to maybe 14/15 and have 2/3 teams relegated and promoted every season…. I believe that we will see worcester come straight back up next season, and that stops other teams fro mthe championship from showcasing themselves in the premiership.

    What does everyone else think???

  9. This could only be a good idea if the same club/s were constantly up and down but i think Leeds managed to stem that flow with a decent season on the premiership.

  10. I can only agree with everything that is said here – it’s crucial to maintain the links to lower leagues.

    Agree with Gavin as well – Harlequins, Northampton, Bristol and Worcester all relegated in recent seasons, and that underlines how competitive the league is, as well as the fact that if a team is promoted from the Championship, they should have a decent chance of staying up.

  11. I would personally like to see the premiership increased to 14 teams and ringfenced for a period of maybe 2 years. To compensate for the extra games i would then get rid of the mickey mouse LV cup. After 2 years promotion / relegation would be brought back with the winner of the championship competing in a play of with the bottom team in the prem. The RFU should also scrap this stupid play off system in the championship to ensure the best team competes in the play off for a premiership place.

  12. Keep the fear of relegation and bring back substitutes for injuries only. If all players trained to play 80 minutes each game, they would be leaner, fitter and less like ponderous concrete mixers. Aren’t we all sick of waiting for the video refereee to decide whether a ball has been legally grounded beneath a mass of writhing bodies? Sickening!

  13. Increase the prem to 14 teams, freeze the relegation for two years, then two up two down based on top team and runner up in championship. Also be a bit more realistic on ground criteria. This is currently almost a closed shop as only 2 champ teams currently qualify. A full rugby ground holding 6 or 7 thousand fans is a lot better than a football ground much less than half full holding the same number.

  14. I think that the Premiership should be increased to 14 teams but relegation should still stay. Instead of two up & two down automatically how about the bottom club in the Premiership to be relegated and the winner of the Championship to be promoted with the bottom but one side in the Premiership playing the runner up in the Championship either on a two leg basis or a one off game at a neutral venue.
    Of course any side that wins promotion can only do so if their ground and facilities are up to scratch. The lower leagues could also implement a similar promotion/relegation system if they want. 14 teams in the Premiership would make for a better season along with the Heineken and Amlin cups. Should the LV=cup remain? Depends if there was time in the season for it (good competition though- this coming from a Northampton Saints supporter!). Should the season be extended? Should the salary cap be raised? Should the clubs be able to retain their players during the Six nations/autumn internationals or should there be a period when no league games are played at that time? Food for thought eh?

  15. I agree 14 teams, but not with play-offs. A premier team should always beat a league 1 side, if you win or come second in div.1 then you’ve got the summer to buy in players re-jig your team for the up coming season. Small grounds – so what, if you can compete with the big boys with the obvious finanial restrictions a small ground would impose then good for you. Alternatively do what the Reading Irish or the Watford Wasps do move to a bigger stadium or ground share.

  16. Why not consider an alternate angle to this? Closing off and running a Premiership academy league also, reflecting the grass roots desire along with enjoyment of watching the talented pool developing as demonstrated in the under-21s and below national squads. This also encourages investment and club loyalty whilst openly reviewing the development of younger players themselves. Not many of the potential clubs looking at promotion into the premiership have the financial backing or squad depth to compete at this level. They need 2 seasons to bed in and this can be highly unlikely as we all know. Additionally what is the point of demoting an established premiership team when the percentage rate of a top flight return dismisses the point in question.

  17. Increasing the numbers of teams in the Premiership would put more pressure on the players especially those who play in the National Teams. We’ve seen plenty of comments about players playing too many games unless contracted out to miss some (but which games do they miss esp early season?)

    Increasing squad sizes may assist in that, but it’s still a question of players (and coaches/managers/sponsors) targeting games.

    It’s a must that relegation and promotion between bottom & top clubs is kept (see the stagnation in “traditional” County Cricket prior to its introduction)..!! Possibly have a play-off between second bottom and runner-up – suggest a sweetner that the game is played at Twickenham before the Premiership final

  18. We must keep the current system, without it what will the teams below the prem have to play for. Gates will drop, because what will the fans and the club have to aspire to?
    To think the RFU could rob us of a chance of playing on the big stage is totally wrong.
    How come the French still have relegation but have a cracking national side???

  19. without promotion relegation what is there to play for, and what is the championship all about, when it just comes down the last 6 games of the season in the play-offs, to stay in it ?, B&S stayed up and Coventry get relegated,,, in the games before the play-offs ( normal season playing all the other teams home and away, in the championship ) B&S won zip,!!!, just trained for 6 mounths till the play-offs came around, its rubbish, is there a play-off to see who’s relegated for the PREM,’ NO’

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