The winds of change sweeping across rugby in the Southern Hemisphere are now threatening to gust through England.
The Daily Mail claims to be in possession of minutes from a meeting of the chairmen of England’s Premier Rugby League (PRL) clubs which reveal discussions about breaking away from England Rugby (the RFU) to form an independent league.
The issue of contention is the RFU’s refusal to do away with the Premiership’s current relegation system.
“If the RFU were to be unwilling to support change, we shall need to ensure access to match officials and player insurance cover (as this is a joint policy), as this would potentially become an unregulated competition,” said one of the minutes.
The Daily Mail claims that “sources” have written off the possibility of a rebel league, but the pending financial injection of more than £200m (R3.5bn) by the PRL’s new equity partners has motivated the clubs to aggressively campaign for an end to the “commercial hindrance” posed by annual relegation.
This follows the fault lines formed in the Sanzaar alliance by South Africa’s decision to enter two teams into the Pro14.
An expanded Pro12 welcomed the Cheetahs and Southern Kings in August last year as SA Rugby began building a bridge to European rugby and, as speculated by some pundits, away from Super Rugby.
It’s highly unlikely that South Africa would ever turn its back on the famous regional competition which features New Zealand’s top talent. But it’s clear that rugby’s established governing bodies are going to have to start doing more than shrug their shoulders when stakeholders demand change.
— Staff Writer