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English domestic rugby
RFU facing league restructure backlash
ESPN Staff
March 9, 2014

Clubs in the lower tiers of English rugby have hit back at the Rugby Football Union over plans to restructure the National League system, according to the Rugby Paper.

Proposals include reducing National League One from 16 to 14 clubs, with three clubs relegated instead of two, the creation of a new Level 4 and 5 with four and eight regionalised 12-team leagues respectively, all using play-offs to decide which two clubs are promoted. There are also plans to introduce a cup competition for clubs at the newly created Levels 4 and 5.

Wharfedale chairman Mike Harrison insists the RFU has acted against the majority opinion of the existing National League One and Two clubs.

"The RFU has trampled all over us," Harrison told the Rugby Paper. Of 48 clubs, there was only one that voted for regionalisation and they promised us faithfully it was off the table. Reducing National One to 14 clubs would be disastrous because we would lose a load of revenue, and regionalisation at Level 4 would be disastrous because if you have four regions instead of two, you'll reduce standards of play.

"This is as mad as I've ever seen people. I'm exasperated and the clubs are livid. The RFU took some soundings from us and simply took no notice, but they are going to face a fight."

A senior Wharfedale official has written to the 48 clubs, adding that "if all else fails, an injunction to the courts to stop the RFU damaging our businesses" will have to be pursued. The RFU outline its recommendations this coming week, before they are put to the RFU Council in April. If ratified they will come into force from the start of the 2015-16 season.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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