After the loss of Wasps and Worcester, should the English Premiership become a streamlined ten-team competition?


England’s top flight has 11 clubs after Wasps and Worcester both went into administration earlier this season. So, moving forward, should the Gallagher Premiership be reduced to ten teams? Read this debate from our Face-off series…

YES, says the Exeter Chiefs director of rugby

“It’s 11 now. If you want to even up the numbers, it’s ten and everything becomes a little more manageable. The one thing we’ve got to do is get bodies through the gate and people who want to come to those nine home games – they’ve got to become big occasions.

That’s something we’ve got to work on, and it becomes easier when you know they’re nine big home games outside of international windows; everyone is available in a competition that starts to attract a bit more support and coverage as we drive the quality of the games.

Should the Gallagher Premiership be reduced to ten teams?

‘Having ten teams would make everything more manageable,’ says Chiefs boss Rob Baxter (Getty Images)

There’s never going to be an answer that suits everybody. I don’t think anybody thought going to 13 teams was a good solution to anything. I’d have said 12 was a better number but there’s an argument that ten would work by taking Premiership fixtures out of international windows. But whatever happens, there has to be some sort of promotion and relegation.

It isn’t just when the Premiership games clash but rest periods, pre-season, limited time at the start and pressure towards the end of the season. Thirteen clubs creates those fallow weekends that extend the length of the season again.

Then the big story in the game is the head injury situation. Thirteen teams is adding to the games of Premiership rugby players, not taking away at a time when that’s a big focus as well. Let’s declutter the calendar a little bit, so that the season becomes more structured and there’s more common sense.”

Wasps fans

Reborn: Wasps will play in the RFU Championship next season following their administration (Getty)

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NO, says the freelance writer and RW contributor

“Ten-team Premiership? Tell that to clubs who dream of getting promoted to the top flight and fear that going down to ten is just a fast track to ring-fencing the league. And tell that to teams who would lose another home fixture when they need all the money they can get.

All clubs have the right to think big. What if you are, say, Ealing, Jersey or Coventry? Wasps will be coming back into the mix, maybe Worcester a few years down the line, and to make it a ten-team Premiership the league would have to lose another club. That leaves 15 clubs potentially in the Championship and that is never going to work. Even 14 would not work.

Last May, Harvey Biljon signed a new seven-year contract which keeps him at Jersey Reds as DoR until 2029. He does not strike me as someone who has done that to kick about in the second tier for the best part of a decade. Make no mistake, if the Premiership is cut to ten then the ring-fencers will be out in force.

Ealing Trailfinders, 2021

Shrinking the top flight would further hamper the ambitions of clubs such as Ealing Trailfinders (Getty)

I get Rob Baxter’s argument about the clash of Premiership fixtures with the international windows, but wasn’t that what the end-of-season play-offs were brought in to address?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the system, and I would bin them for a first-past-the-post title winner, they are supposed to be there to even it up for sides who may have a lot of players involved in Tests.

And player welfare? What did teams do when they lost fixtures against Worcester and Wasps this season? Arranged more fixtures, that’s what.”

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This debate first appeared in the January 2023 issue of Rugby World