PRL to consider 5 Year Play-offs.


By JP
March 8 2020

Premiership weighs up five-yearly play-offs in rugby revolution

Plan seen as compromise to ring-fencing top flight
♦ CVC and Sky discussing a dedicated rugby channel

Rugby authorities are exploring plans to replace annual relegation and promotion to the Premiership with a play-off every five years as the sport begins a revolution under the influence of one of the world’s largest investment firms, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

The idea has emerged as a popular compromise short of fully “ring-fencing” rugby’s top flight – which is strongly opposed by many Championship clubs in English rugby’s second tier – according to senior sources across the sport.

No decisions have been made in talks between clubs and the Rugby Football Union, but discussions are being closely watched by the private equity giant CVC, which has invested £200 million to take control of the Premiership’s commercial activities.

Advocates of ring-fencing argue it would reduce investment risk for club owners, allowing them to plough money into facilities with confidence that they would not suffer a sudden loss of income if relegated.

CVC, which is not directly involved in the discussions and has no say in their outcome, wants the Premiership to attract more fans and improve television coverage to boost returns.

The organisation, which remains nearly three-quarters owned by the clubs, is preparing for a move away from rugby’s stronghold of Twickenham into central London to be closer to CVC and commercial interests.

Today’s revelations for the first time give an insight into CVC’s future in the game. The Sunday Telegraph understands that CVC and Sky have held early discussions about creating a Sky rugby channel that would include coverage of the Premiership and international matches.

A broadcasting source said Sky could look to keep the sport’s profile up by showing some games with a free-to-air partner such as Channel 4, which last year aired the Cricket World Cup final alongside the pay-TV operator.

It is understood that CVC’s plans include improved television graphics to explain the action to newcomers to the sport, a subscription streaming app for international fans and centralised merchandising.

They are based partly on the NFL, where franchisees face no threat of relegation and have invested heavily in stadiums. Excluding television income, the Super Bowl brings in about $350 million (£268 million) for the NFL, compared with $3 million for the Premiership final.

Rugby’s sporting authorities are considering whether they can close the gap while still offering second-tier clubs some chance of promotion.

A rugby source said: “It’s not no change versus close it off. One of the ideas that is popular is that every five years, there’s a play-off between the top of the Championship and the bottom of the Premiership.

“There would be an assessment of whether that Championship club has the stadium and the budget, the team and the capabilities to come up. But if they’re assessed as having met the criteria, and they succeed in that play-off, then the league is open and there is promotion and relegation. There are lots of versions of this.”

Any decision to make promotion more difficult would stoke controversy. Ben Ward, who is director of rugby at ambitious second-tier side Ealing

It is understood that CVC’s plans include improved television graphics to explain the action to newcomers to the sport, a subscription streaming app for international fans and centralised merchandising.

They are based partly on the NFL, where franchisees face no threat of relegation and have invested heavily in stadiums. Excluding television income, the Super Bowl brings in about $350 million (£268 million) for the NFL, compared with $3 million for the Premiership final.

Rugby’s sporting authorities are considering whether they can close the gap while still offering second-tier clubs some chance of promotion.

A rugby source said: “It’s not no change versus close it off. One of the ideas that is popular is that every five years, there’s a play-off between the top of the Championship and the bottom of the Premiership.

“There would be an assessment of whether that Championship club has the stadium and the budget, the team and the capabilities to come up. But if they’re assessed as having met the criteria, and they succeed in that play-off, then the league is open and there is promotion and relegation. There are lots of versions of this.”

Any decision to make promotion more difficult would stoke controversy. Ben Ward, who is director of rugby at ambitious second-tier side Ealing Trailfinders, said: “Something should be done to stop ring-fencing, but also something should be done about the fairness of the competition and to help develop sides in this country.

“The Premiership this year is not exciting, with relegation already decided,” he added, referring to the decision in January to demote defending champions Saracens for breaches of the salary cap.

Less movement between leagues could also harm the value of television rights by delivering fewer important matches, senior broadcasting sources said. The talks are under way as CVC’s manoeuvres in rugby come under increasing scrutiny.

The Six Nations, in which the firm plans to become a one-seventh shareholder with a £300 million investment, is selling its next round of television rights in a new format designed to extract maximum returns and could lead to the competition being entirely on Sky.

The BBC and ITV, who share the rights, have been barred from bidding together and the rights have been packaged up in lots for a Premier League-style blind auction. The autumn internationals are bundled in for the first time, too.

Julian Knight, the Conservative chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, last week warned the Six Nations that “charging rugby fans to watch the tournament on TV would go against the spirit of broadcasting rules intended to ensure that sporting events like this are freely available to all”.

 

pqs: qs:
PRL to consider 5 Year Play-offs!
Posted by: Comeonyouwarriors.co.uk (IP Logged)
Date: 08/03/2020 14:26

What do you think? You can have your say by posting below.
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2020:03:08:17:55:10 by Faithful_City.

Re: PRL to consider 5 Year Play-offsPremiership weighs up five-y
Posted by: Simba (IP Logged)
Date: 08/03/2020 16:18

They should average the points per season for x years and the team with the lowest average points over that period should be in the playoff, not necessarily the bottom team that season. It also gives some incentive to play a meaningful game during the previous seasons.

Re: PRL to consider 5 Year Play-offsPremiership weighs up five-y
Posted by: Garym (IP Logged)
Date: 08/03/2020 22:39

It is interesting to see the impact of CVC on F1 (even though they have gone now), for the average fan it is has been a disaster. I said at the time of CVC coming in to rugby that we would end up going down the same route as F1

"Formula One lost 8.6 million television viewers in Britain in 2019 fuelled by a new contract which gives Sky Sports exclusive rights to show all but one of the races live.

The deal was signed by F1ís former boss Bernie Ecclestone and saw Skyís annual fee doubling to around £120m. It is a winning formula for F1 financially but has driven fans away from the sport just when the on-track action began revving up."

Re: PRL to consider 5 Year Play-offs!
Posted by: Fiver (IP Logged)
Date: 09/03/2020 08:26

The difference with F1 is each race is in a different country. With rugby, you can easily get to your local team for the home games, and then there's the option to go on away days. Regarding TV deals, if I were a club owner I'd use this as an excuse to try and get bums on seats.

Regarding promotion and relegation, these days the numbers are too high to stick to the romantic view of teams going up and down. Teams will go bust and the game as a whole will suffer. People need to get past the "I want" culture and see the bigger picture.

Re: PRL to consider 5 Year Play-offs!
Posted by: WorcesterSauce (IP Logged)
Date: 09/03/2020 09:48

The bigger picture for Worcester of a league with no relegation is less exposure, less TV coverage and, if recent matches are anything to go by LESS bums on seats and a less attacking brand of rugby. But hey, if thatís what CVC want...

Re: PRL to consider 5 Year Play-offs!
Posted by: Faithful_City (IP Logged)
Date: 09/03/2020 10:54

CVC Team Prize money ranges from £40m to £200m!

I know we are nothing like F1 but prize money could certainly be a driver for making sure you get as much as you can for the following season.

Just think the last few games of a season could decide wether you are solvent, in debt or quite a bit in profit.

£10m for winning the league down to £500k for 14th

JP

Re: PRL to consider 5 Year Play-offs!
Posted by: Fiver (IP Logged)
Date: 09/03/2020 14:16

I personally think there will always be something riding on the game, relegation ends up with negative styles of play through fear of losing. This is perhaps what keeps teams like Warriors in the rut we've been in for so long. Friday night had nothing really riding on it for us, yet we played our most expansive game for quite some time, only losing due to some non-clinical finishing.

I used to love watching the Highlanders games in Super Rugby a few years ago. The Highlanders were rock bottom of the league, couldn't buy a win, yet played the most enjoyable games to watch.

Whatever side you take, you can always find examples to back up what you want to see.

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