Premiership Rugby to ‘relaunch’ for 2024-25 after demise of Wasps & Worcester

Premiership Rugby: Start of season delayed until Saturday following death of Queen Elizabeth II

Thirteen clubs started the 2022-23 Premiership season, with Wasps and Worcester since being suspended and relegated after going into administration

The 2024-2025 season will see a rebirth of Premiership Rugby, as the league looks to recover from a turbulent period off the field.

It comes after the demise of Wasps and Worcester, with both clubs going out of business this campaign.

One of the architects of The Hundred in cricket has come on board as the league looks to re-establish its identity.

“It is essentially a relaunch of the league,” Premiership Rugby boss Simon Massie-Taylor told BBC Sport.

“We need to start moving towards a new system. It needs to look and feel a bit different.”

Massie-Taylor added: “Events moved quickly when it came to Wasps and Worcester, which only reinforced the issues we need to solve.

“The only real positive of this very sad situation is it has given further momentum to quite a few changes within the system.”

Premiership Rugby’s four areas of emphasis

With next season a “transitionary year” as the English game resolves its structural issues – as well as it being the last year of the existing Professional Game Agreement (PGA) – Premiership Rugby has outlined four main areas of emphasis going forward:

  • The establishment of an independent financial monitoring panel, which will oversee all club finances, in a bid to avoid the fate that befell Worcester and Wasps.
  • A new sporting commission, which would be independently chaired and make decisions on behalf of the league.
  • Finalising the new PGA, with the biggest area of focus the structure of the English professional game going forward, and a clear vision of what the second-tier Championship looks like and how promotion and relegation will work.
  • Commitment to the growth plan, with an aim to continue to build the league’s fanbase, using experience from cricket competition The Hundred to engage a new audience.

The opaque nature of club finances – and the failure to act on a number of warning signs when it came to Wasps and Worcester – has forced the league into an urgent reappraisal, with Premiership Rugby needing much greater access when it comes to club accounts – as is the case in France’s professional leagues.

“The key words are financial discipline,” explained Massie-Taylor.

“We need to have much more regular reporting, and you need a system where you have regulations in place that create better discipline.

“But it is forward-looking as well. Clubs have been supportive of this and see the need for it, and we are in the process of recruiting an independent chair who will do a full review and come up with detailed recommendations.

“In the meantime we have better financial information to help manage some of the short-term issues that may come up in the current economic environment.”

Meanwhile, the sporting commission would “simplify how decisions are made” in a bid to avoid the conflict that has hamstrung decision-making.

The commission would include three independent figures, including a recently retired player, as well as an independent chairperson.

“We are trying to be a bit more fleet-of-foot when we are making decisions, and take the conflict out,” Massie-Taylor said.

“The clubs recognise all this and a lot of them have been pushing for change for a while, and we are using this opportunity to get this right.”

Restoring promotion and relegation

As it stands there is no promotion from and further relegation to from the Championship this season, although what happens next season remains up in the air, with the Premiership currently consisting of 11 teams after the relegation of Wasps and Worcester for going into administration.

Either way, strengthening the second tier to ensure a robust promotion and relegation system in the future is now a priority.

“There is an extreme willingness to have a more aligned second tier, because we think that will help it grow,” said Massie-Taylor.

“How that works is a topic of conversation at the moment, and linked to that is what happens next season as far as promotion and relegation, because we obviously need to let our Championship colleagues know the rules of engagement.

“You want a Championship which clubs feel more comfortable relegated into. And you also want something where Wasps and Worcester are germinated back to being a successful club again – because we want Wasps and Worcester back in the Premiership.”

As far as commercial growth is concerned, Rob Calder – former commercial director of The Hundred – has joined Premiership Rugby as chief growth officer as the league looks to build its fanbase and start a new chapter in its history.

“He was one of the architects [of The Hundred] and was in the room as they were putting the whole thing together,” explained Massie-Taylor.

“He understands the challenges we are trying to solve. The 2024-2025 season is that opportune moment to establish what we are, and that is part of his job.”

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