Championship clubs reject 'franchise model' for rugby union's second tier

Championship clubs have rejected plans to join a franchised second tier of English club rugby.

The 11 second-tier sides have been in talks with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) over the future of the club game after the demise of Jersey Reds, Wasps, Worcester and London Irish.

Plans for a 'Premiership 2' to start in 2025 had been proposed.

But sides want a "whole game solution" and object to "non-meritocratic entry" to a revamped second tier.

Clubs added that they were unwilling to commit to a tender process and had significant doubt that any sides would be promoted to the top flight. The last non-Premiership shareholder to make the first tier of English rugby was London Welsh in 2014.

"We hope and expect that the Rugby Football Union will wish to continue to support our league as part of a whole-game approach to solving the sport's challenges," a statement from the 11 clubs read.

"This league, as its principles make clear, will fulfil vital roles in the development of the game in England.

"It would, if permitted, also continue to act as a connecting bridge between the Premiership, the England national set-up and the rest of the sport at National League and all other levels.

"We believe this is the only sustainable way forward. It ensures the integrity and the competitive heartbeat of our sport.

"It will be the best guarantee available for the success of future efforts to improve the quality of play and the quantity of participation, from top to bottom, of English rugby."

'We fully appreciate the consequential effects'

Championship champions Jersey Reds have gone into liquidation after ceasing trading in late September, after three rounds of the Premiership Rugby Cup campaign.

The island side's ground did not meet top-flight standards of a minimum capacity of 10,000 meaning they were unable to go up despite winning the title.

It is a hurdle that has also affected last season's runners-up Ealing, who had won the previous title and have been second to every relegated Premiership side that have regained promotion at the first attempt since the 2015-16 season.

"On the vexed matter of promotion and relegation, we will always believe in the right of the best to rise to the top," the statement added.

"At present, the well-identified barriers put in our way make this a pipe-dream, but we will work unceasingly to challenge and correct this.

"Along with other observers, we have to acknowledge the position in which the Premiership finds itself, and we all have to find a sustainable way forward.

"For the National Leagues and below, we would welcome the competition that our vision of the future guarantees, a future based on on-field success.

"We fully appreciate the consequential effects of our decision to reject a franchise system.

"However, we feel certain that we have taken account of all the key components that can form a successful and sustainable recovery of rugby in this country, at least as far as it concerns the elements of the future that we can influence."