Talk of ring-fencing makes Sheffield reader Mike Roberts as cross as two sticks. This first appeared in Rugby World magazine in February
IT TOOK only a few hours for my New Year jollity to disappear after reading yet another story about Premiership ring-fencing. Ugo Monye suggested the combination of a ‘big hitter’ finishing bottom, and Newcastle winning the second-tier Championship, could see promotion and relegation scrapped this season.
Such a move would not only display contemptible arrogance and disrespect for the game’s various stakeholders but plunge the Premiership down an abyss.
When you remove the core principle of sport – the element of competition and consequence of outcome – you have only an empty shell. Or in this case, weeks and weeks of dead rubbers as some teams play out a season with nothing meaningful to play for.
BT Sport, for whom Monye works, should know this better than anyone because the success of their Premiership coverage has hinged in large part on gripping basement battles.
“If Exeter can rise to become English champions, why not Cornish Pirates one day?”
That excitement would cease with ring-fencing, along with the aspirations of a multitude of players and chairmen and fans hoping to reach the promised land. “If you ring-fence you lose the dream,” said Danny Care, reflecting the views of so many up and down the land.
The feeble retort that there are no more than 12 or 13 clubs able to sustain a full-time Premiership operation fails to acknowledge the dynamic nature of professional sport.
If Exeter Chiefs can rise to become English champions, why not Cornish Pirates with their soon-to-be built Stadium Cornwall? How about ambitious Ealing or Yorkshire? What odds Coventry or Nottingham regaining their former top-tier eminence? These things aren’t imminent but could happen one day.
Nothing makes me madder than the self-interest of some Premiership club owners. Barely had Bristol finally returned to the top flight than Steve Lansdown was arguing for the drawbridge to be raised (albeit with a play-off “later down the line”). You weren’t saying that during your seven years in the Championship!
The RFU needs to stand firm against these ring-fencing agitators.
This first appeared in Rugby World magazine in February.
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