Rugby Union feels a long way in the past at the moment, what was a fairly unpleasant season as a Saracens fan came to an abrupt halt on the weekend of March 7/8th. Two teams had won 9 games from the 13th played, one sits at the top of the table, the other at the bottom. So, it wasn’t the stuff happening on the pitch that was unpleasant Saracens wise, but the much written about the stuff off the pitch.
The RFU took the decision to stop all rugby below the Premiership and finish the season off. The Championship table saw Newcastle at the top with 15 wins from 15 and although they’d played a game more than Ealing Trailfinders they were over 20 points ahead. Therefore Newcastle were awarded promotion to swap places with Saracens.
* Saracens deducted 105 points for breaches to the Salary Cap regulations
The season came to a halt with 9 rounds remaining, on the 5th June Premiership Rugby announced a re-start target date of the 15th August. Looking at the season Pre-Covid there were 14 weeks remaining, to fit in play offs, the Final on the 13th June and of course the Champions and Challenge Cups which had Quarters, Semis and a Final to happen. Fourteen weeks from 15th August takes us to November 14th.
There’s been talk of a global season for a few years now, and the current situation would seem to be an ideal time for a switch to happen.
Super Rugby is a 21 week tournament to compare to what would be a 24 week Premiership season. There are 14 teams in the French Top 14 league (funny that!) and the same 14 in the Pro 14, but they play their games across two conferences of 7. There are of course other leagues outside of these four, not least in Japan.
To bring player welfare to the top of the agenda and to facilitate international fixtures something has to change. Looking at the competition played in a different hemisphere (Mostly) Super Rugby was due to run from February to July in 2020. One of the hemisphere’s is going to have to move their season to include more of their summer. Having spent 5 weeks in Australia at the height of their Summer, I know full well that can’t be those in the Southern Hem.
My first love sports wise is cricket, it’s takes priority for me over pretty much everything, so personally that would count me out of a season ticket. But, to throw away my selfish reasonings I can see the logic for moving things round. It’s hard to imagine any change filtering down to amateur rugby which would free up a lot of people to watch a game they’re usually playing during the current season.
If summer/spring rugby is to be at just the highest level that would mean a ring-fenced Premiership, that would concern me as a rugby league fan who watched London Broncos beaten week after week in a ring-fenced Superleague. In common with the current season, with Saracens relegation confirmed early on, many games will be meaningless fairly early on in the season.
This nasty virus could be an enabler for big changes for the game of rugby league. Lord Myner’s recommendations have been accepted in full and today has come confirmation that the Salary Cap will be reduced to £6m, with full details to follow. There’s going to be a lot for the powers that be to think about and the players too. Rugby perhaps more than any other sport can be a short lived career, a big pay day in France, or more far flung places such as America and Japan may become even more attractive.
I’m intrigued to see how Saracens are going to be expected to play in both the Premiership and the Championship alongside defending their European title. It would make complete sense for Newcastle to play their remaining fixtures in the Premiership. We wait with bated breath!