Aviva Premiership
McGeechan urges relegation re-think
ESPN Staff
October 19, 2012
Bath director of rugby Ian McGeechan looks on, Bath v Exeter Chiefs, Aviva Premiership, the Recreation Ground, Bath, England, April 9, 2011
Sir Ian McGeechan believes the Premiership must be given time to thrive as a business © Getty Images
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Sir Ian McGeechan has called for the Aviva Premiership to temporarily suspend relegation to give English rugby's top flight time to firmly establish itself as a business.

McGeechan, who earlier this year was tasked with leading a review into the England set-up alongside former UK Sport performance director Peter Keen, believes that making the Premiership a closed shop for five years would benefit the game as a whole.

"There is an argument, and I know people disagree with me, that if you want rugby to be the best product then you don't have relegation," McGeechan told the Press Association. "If you want club rugby to be the best business then you give it time as a business to establish itself.

"It may not be just 12 clubs, if there are 14 or 15 clubs that are set up to be professional in the right way why not make a 15-club league? And then say for five years 'this is our business, we want to make it work, coaches - we want an attractive positive game, there's no fear of relegation. There's no kicking the leather off the ball and only playing 20 metres out from your opponents' line'.

"Then there would be no reason not to put the best product out on the field and that is one of the advantages the Super 15 [Super Rugby] has. They can do that without inhibition and you challenge players in a different way."

McGeechan, whose review will be focused entirely on the international game, also believes that the trap door impacted on the style of rugby served up in the Premiership. "The nitty-gritty of the Premiership is that it is a tough competition," he added. "Speak to some of the southern hemisphere players and it is the toughest competition you can play in because week in and week out you are working very hard to win games and it is very competitive.

"But are you getting the best product out of that or could it be better? Sometimes we have to have a more open mind about it. Remove relegation for that period and that gives five years for Championship clubs to get the model right and have the right facilities and infrastructure if they want to be a Premiership club. Or if you keep relegation, have the bottom club playing off against the top club in the Championship."

The review of England elite rugby is set to be presented to Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie early next year and McGeechan and has been impressed by Keen's fresh approach.

He added: "I can see why British Cycling has got to where it has when you see he was the instigator, and why a number of Olympic sports have delivered when you have someone like him looking at their performance programmes.

"You have to look at everything in context, team sports are more than just knocking a hundredth of a second off a performance - in cycling or athletics that can mean the difference between a gold medal and being off the podium. Our review is looking at a positive way which collectively, within all the constraints and parameters, is the best way of taking the English game forward at the top end."

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