RFU and Premiership Rugby downplay rift as breakaway league rumours resurface

The member clubs of England’s Premiership Rugby have have moved to downplay reports of a “war” with the Rugby Football Union, after it emerged that the league had discussed creating a breakaway competition.

UK paper The Mail on Sunday reported yesterday that it had seen leaked minutes from a Premiership board meeting from last April, in which club chairmen discussed the creation of an “unregulated competition” if the RFU refused to scrap promotion and relegation from the top division.

The Premiership clubs have described the second-tier Championship as a “monetary disaster” and, with the £230m investment from CVC Capital Partners now confirmed, are emboldened in their attempts to ringfence the top division and its commercial benefits as they look to secure their place at the top table. The RFU remains reluctant to close off English rugby’s top flight to teams further down the ladder.

Ian Ritchie, the chairman of Premiership Rugby and former chief executive of the RFU, has played down the suggestion of a growing “civil war” in the sport, telling the BBC: “Like any board, you would expect all boards to discuss issues like Premiership promotion and relegation, and we’ve been doing that for some time.” He added that no formal discussions between the Premiership and the RFU had taken place.