English rugby chiefs scrap Premiership relegation for 2020/21 season

·2-min read
There will be no relegation from the English Premiership this season

Premiership Rugby announced on Friday there would be no relegation from the English top-flight at the end of the current season as a result of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A moratorium on relegation for the 2020/21 campaign has been approved by the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

Promotion into the Premiership remains for the winner of the second-tier Championship, meaning the elite competition will be expanded to 13 teams next season.

There will also be no relegation from the Championship into the National League.

The RFU said the move had been made as a result of the disruptive effects of Covid-19, which has forced the cancellation of a series of matches.

"These cancellations have resulted in a material impact on league positions which could mean relegation based on cancellation not on-field merit," it said in a statement.

Darren Childs, chief executive of Premiership Rugby, welcomed the decision.

"The priority for everyone involved has been to protect the long-term sustainability and success of English professional rugby for the fans and clubs who have endured huge financial and sporting challenges throughout the last two seasons," he said.

RFU president Jeff Blackett said the English governing body's ruling council was trying to act in the best interests of all sections of the game.

"We want to ensure a healthy elite game to support successful winning England teams that generate income to stimulate and preserve the game across all levels," he said.

"The council will continue to be closely engaged with the proposals from the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Championship to ensure we maintain the integrity of the future league structures for England Rugby."

Even before the Covid-19 outbreak, there had long been a debate within English rugby about scrapping Premiership relegation.

Some critics argue such a move would prevent a club such as reigning English and European champions Exeter rising up through the leagues.

But others point to the expense of Premiership rugby, with many Championship clubs happy to avoid promotion because of those costs, which include higher wages.

Significantly, Friday's statement from the RFU said it was "likely that any season structures may also include a further moratorium on promotion and relegation for three or four seasons", although this remained a matter for ongoing discussions.

With only eight of the 22 rounds completed, traditional power Gloucester are bottom of this season's Premiership table.