How dare Premiership Rugby criticise London Welsh and deny them right to play in top flight? It is gross hypocrisy.
Brendan Gallagher, Daily Telegraph
Right, time for a few painful home truths about clubs I otherwise admire and love but who now stand accused of gross hypocrisy over the London Welsh promotion issue.
Make no mistake, it is Premiership Rugby, and the clubs therein, that are making life nigh on impossible for those clubs wishing to better themselves. The compliant RFU are in effect the policemen, but Premiership Rugby have laid down the ridiculous regulations.
How dare Premiership Rugby get all precious over London Welsh, and indeed Cornish Pirates. They have had 17 years to sort themselves out and are still, in many cases, a complete mess groundwise. Up to this point I have judged them purely on their rugby, but they started this nonsense so here goes.
For years now I have sat in what amounts to a bomb site in the “press area” in the condemned stand at Vicarage Road. You can see 50 per cent of the game at best because your sightlines are ruined by huge pillars – most of the time you have to train your binoculars on the TV screen over 100 yards away.
For the best part of a decade Sarries have been telling us they will be moving to another ground, but nothing happens. Match day at Saracens Road in the middle of winter is among the most depressing sporting experiences of all time, but we stick with it because they are a fine club and an excellent team, populated by individuals we admire and respect. The Kassam Stadium would be absolute Rugby heaven in comparison.
Sarries, remember, were born of the parkfield that was Bramley Road, where players and spectators alike had to pick their way through dog excretia or worse. They are a product of the system that they are now helping to destroy.
It goes on. Edgley Park was right up there with Vicarage Road in the horror of its facilities, while Bath have got away with murder ever since professionalism started because we love the Recreation Ground.
Ahh, the Recreation Ground. Yes I do have a soft spot for the place but our patience is running very thin, it doesn’t meet Premiership Rugby’s own ground criteria, there is no parking worth mentioning, the majority of spectators are housed on a curious ad hoc structure in the middle of the cricket pitch and, unless you can bag a seat in the front row of their suspended press box, you have no chance of viewing the game.
How dare they criticise London Welsh. Who do Premiership Rugby think they are? Have they completely forgotten recent history? At various times Harlequins and Northampton have rightly been relegated to Division One but prospered massively from the experience and bounced back as model teams.
How dare Premiership Rugby, via the RFU, attempt to deny that to other equally ambitious rugby clubs. How dare they be judge and jury when the only people benefitting is their self-appointed elite. It is so against everything Rugby Union stands for as to be laughable, which they will quickly discover if this London Welsh situation is allowed to go any further.
A natural process of promotion and relegation should always decide who the elite are. Two years ago, Exeter’s promotion was greeted with guffaws around the League, and predictions of their instant relegation and humiliation. Well how wrong were Premiership Rugby on that.
Exeter are a model club in all respects, full of Championship Rugby virtues, and have raised the standards in the Premiership. We need more like Exeter, not less. We need a more dynamic self-satisfied League structure and we need much less of this nonsense.
It’s the creeping duplicity I dislike. If Premiership Rugby want a self-enclosed, self-perpetuating elite like the Super 15, the NBA, the NFL then they should come clean, put their proposal on the table and the game will vote Yes or No. But this big, bullying approach is going to lose them a lot of friends – as they will discover in the weeks ahead if it continues.
The glory of English rugby, so we are always told, is the numbers game, the million-plus people who play. If that is ever going to be translated into a consistently successful national team the way forward has to be via two top professional leagues, with free passage between the two via promotion and relegation. Make the numbers work for you.
It’s quite evident, however, that such a scenario is the last thing Premiership Rugby want while the RFU’s mystifying failure to find a sponsor for the Championship sends out the same message.