04/06/14 by Malcolm Wharton
The RFU Council today approved the recommendations of the Adult Competition Review that will see adjustments to the structure of competitive rugby.
The changes take account of player welfare concerns and will help to reduce the financial burden on clubs, while providing meaningful competition.
Bill Beaumont, RFU Chairman said: “The decision by Council to accept the recommendations of the Adult Competition Review is a major step forward in determining the future of our great game, to deliver accessible and healthy competition for generations to come.
“It is vital that the changes work from the bottom up as well as from the top down, and that principle has been fully endorsed by Council.
“The review brought together extensive research and diverse views into a set of recommendations that we believe best serve the changing needs of our game. The RFU Council has endorsed that belief and provided a mandate for work to proceed to implement the changes.”
The revised structure offers clubs a balanced number of home games per season and a varied diet of league and Cup rugby within a 35-week season. The maximum number of matches played by most clubs at levels 3 and below between September and April will not exceed 30.
Work will begin immediately on implementing the recommendations, with the exception of changes to the league structures (recommendations 8 and 9), which will take effect from 2016/17.
This will ensure that there is sufficient time for the detailed planning and preparation necessary at all levels, giving clubs at least one season’s notice of the changes:
Level 3 will remain a national league, reduced in size to 15 teams (from 16 teams) with no Cup competition.
From Level 4 downwards the league pyramid will be flattened, with a view to reducing each team’s travel time and distance to away matches:
• Level 4 – will consist of three leagues of 15 teams with no Cup competition
• Level 5 – will consist of eight leagues of 12 teams with a compulsory National Cup competition
• Level 6 – will consist of 16 leagues of 12 teams with an optional National Cup competition
• Level 7 – composition and operation of league rugby at Level 7 and below will continue to be determined and managed locally, Level 7 with optional National Cup competition organised by Divisional Organising Committees
Recognising the importance of providing meaningful competition and more opportunities to play rugby at second XV and below, the RFU will further strengthen and support this key area of the game with increased resources.
John Douglas, Chairman of the Review Steering Group said: “The aim of the review was to provide competitive rugby that will encourage maximum player and supporter participation and to grow and sustain our clubs, in a world that will continue to change.
“More than ever rugby faces competition from other sports and leisure activities, in addition to the demands of travel and cost; adjusting the league programme will help to reduce the cost to clubs.
“Every effort has been made to provide as many opportunities as possible for feedback and comment throughout the review process, and we are most grateful to everyone across the game who has contributed.”