Premiership Rugby ring-fencing: how likely is it to happen?

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GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Ben Meehan of London Irish goes over to score his team's second try during the Greene King IPA Championship match between Hartpury College and London Irish at the Gillman's Ground on December 28, 2018 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

The end of the season is looming and the relegation battle hotting-up. A number of sides, including giants Leicester Tigers, are still in danger of the drop. This inevitably means the debate over Premiership Rugby ring-fencing has reared its head again.

As always this debate has staunch supporters and opponents. Here at Last Word On Rugby, we will be analyzing this debate. However, perhaps more importantly, we will be looking at the likelihood of this change actually happening. Regardless of the opinions of many, it’s the opinions of those at the top of the game that matter. As well as the challenges they may face to bring in such a change.

Should Premiership ring-fencing happen?

The romantic in all of us says we must keep relegation. The fairy-tale story of Exeter Chiefs is the prime example of this. Although, the likelihood of this repeating itself is not really a possibility.

Having said this, without relegation this season’s Premiership would not be nearly as exciting as it currently is. Saracens and Exeter have dominated and if we did not have the suspense over who goes down many would be uninterested by this point.

As much as rugby romantic in you wants relegation to be a part of English Rugby we do need to question its effectiveness. Much has been made of the way Super Rugby and the Pro 14 promote expansive rugby and youth involvement. As a result, many have criticized the Premiership in comparison.

Could it help the national team to scrap relegation? Would we see more attacking rugby? Would we better develop young players? In theory, the answer is probably yes. However, it is hard to say for sure.

Relegation clearly adds to the competition but is it to the detriment to clubs’ development and to the national side. It is hard to strike a balance here but we all know that ring-fencing of some description is a genuine possibility.

Will It Happen?

Pushing all the fans opinions to one side, changes at the decision-making level may change how likely ring-fencing is. After CVC bought into the Premiership they now have some say as to how the competition is run. Potentially they may look to protect their investment by pushing for the end of relegation. This is pure speculation at this time but CVC’s involvement certainly throws some questions in the air regarding ring-fencing.

However, the complications of how ring-fencing would implement itself are numerous. Firstly the 12 current Premiership teams plus London Irish have shares in the competition. This would lead us to believe at least those 13 would have to be part of any ring-fenced Premiership. Ealing Trailfinders are also growing as a club; so do they deserve a seat at the table too?

New formats as an alternative to Premiership Rugby ring-fencing?

There have been suggestions of two conferences to limit the number of games but surely that is largely untenable. There are so many challenges that face any potential change to the competition. Without any genuine proposal, we probably have to think it is a fair way off.

However we have seen proposals, such as World Rugby’s Nations League, seemingly come out of thin air. As a result, we do not know if anything is going on behind the scenes. However, it does seem that there are a lot of stumbling blocks before we reach any solutions.

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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