According to a report in The Times, the RFU are keen to introduce a proposal, which would be implemented next season, that would result in no promotion to or relegation from the Premiership for a period of five seasons.
If the plans go ahead, then at the end of the 2018/19 season, the bottom-placed Premiership club would play the top-placed Championship club in a promotion/relegation decider. Once that match dictates who will ply their trade in each division, both leagues will be ‘ringfenced’ with no promotion/relegation taking place for a period of five seasons.
According to the report, there are 13 teams considered to be of Premiership calibre, the 12 current teams and Bristol. However, although the clubs are open to the idea of ringfencing promotion/relegation for five seasons, the ultimate conundrum is deciding who of the 13 teams would be left out.
It was proposed to have a 13-team Premiership but that would mean extending the season by two weeks which would be very unpopular.
If the plans go ahead, then London Irish look to be the club in that playoff against the bottom-placed Premiership club next season, assuming as expected, they finish top of the Championship next season. The consequences of that fixture would be unprecedented. Win and you have five years of Premiership rugby to look forward to, lose and there will be a significant player, staff and financial drain.
The Times understands that clubs would be open to the proposal as long as the ringfence is lifted after five years.