There will be no relegation from an expanded 14-team Gallagher Premiership until the end of the 2022/23 season at the earliest, as the RFU hopes temporarily ringfencing the league will “improve the financial stability and sustainability of professional rugby”.
The RFU Council on Tuesday voted in favour of its “Covid Recovery Plan”, which introduces the following changes:
• The expansion of the Premiership to 14 teams at the end of the 2021/22 season, with the winner of the Championship, subject to revised minimum required standards criteria.
• No relegation from the 14-team league (Saracens have been promoted to a 13-team league this year) in the 2022/23 season.
• A play-off in the 2023/24 season between the club finishing bottom of the Premiership and the winner of the Championship (subject to that club meeting the required minimum standards) to decide who is in the Premiership.
• An aim to introduce a ruling where each Premiership club has at least 15 England-qualified players in each matchday squad.
• An earlier end to the 2022/23 season, allowing increased preparation time for England at the 2023 World Cup in France.
RFU president Jeff Blackett, said: “The changes will undoubtedly benefit the game of rugby in England as we recover from the effects of the pandemic.
“This is not ringfencing the Premiership as some have suggested. In three of the four seasons covered by this, and our previous decision, a Championship club will have the opportunity to be promoted.
“Council has control of what happens thereafter and is committed to maintaining the integrity of the league structure by ensuring that access to the Premiership will be retained in the future.”