The Rugby Football Union (RFU) Council has approved a three-season plan to remove the end-of-season play-off system between the top four teams to decide the winner of the Greene King IPA Championship.
From next season, the club who finishes top of the table will be crowned the winner of the Greene King IPA Championship and will be promoted into Premiership Rugby the following season if they satisfy the Minimum Standards Criteria of the premier club competition.
The new format was agreed and supported by the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Greene King IPA Championship clubs and came with their recommendation to be considered and ratified by the RFU Council.
Additional funding from the RFU and Premiership Rugby (PRL) will be provided to Greene King IPA Championship clubs as a result of an agreement between the three parties.
The multi-million pound deal over three seasons will include increased payments to each club plus the opportunity to secure meritocracy payments based on the clubs’ final position in the table to ensure competition among clubs throughout the entirety of the season. This funding differs to the payments already made to clubs by the RFU and PRL.
Ian Ritchie, RFU Chief Executive said: “The RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Greene King IPA Championship clubs agree this a positive step forward.
“The first-past-the-post system will allow the promoted club a greater amount of time to recruit ahead of the next season which is important for their preparation in playing in the Premiership.
“In addition, all of the clubs will also benefit from extra funding provided by the RFU and Premiership Rugby. It was also important for this regulation change to be agreed in principle by the RFU Council to allow clubs certainty regarding budget planning for next season.”
Geoff Irvine, Chairman of the Greene King IPA Championship clubs added: “This agreement which is fixed for the next three seasons provides a period of stability and continuity which will enable the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Greene King IPA Championship clubs to engage in meaningful dialogue to further relationships and develop initiatives for the mutual benefit of both parties.”
Mark McCafferty, Chief Executive at Premiership Rugby said: “It’s vital that any club being promoted from the Greene King IPA Championship is as prepared as it can be to compete, given the quality and intensity of Premiership Rugby. The current play-off system does not always help with that whereas a return to first-past-the-post from next season will provide the potential for more advanced planning and recruitment.
“The Greene King IPA Championship is an important part of the professional game and with the RFU, we have now committed to additional funding from next year to support its development.”
Yorkshire Carnegie Executive President Sir Ian McGeechan has welcomed the changes for the Championship. He commented, “Obviously this season we will be doing everything possible to achieve our goal of reaching the Aviva Premiership. However, having been part the play off system for a number of years, I am pleased to see the return of the first-past-the-post system. The decision to make this announcement now is particularly welcome for all the clubs and allows the Championship sides the opportunity to get their financial and personnel planning in place for 2017-18 at the right time of year. Everyone in the Championship will go into next season knowing what they need to do to get promoted and the team that gains promotion will need to be consistent throughout a long, hard campaign.”