Premiership Rugby denies reports of breakaway and rift with RFU

The Gallagher Premiership trophy on display in London, England -- Jun 26, 2018. Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Premiership Rugby

Premiership Rugby has moved to dampen suggestions of a rift with the Rugby Football Union after reports claimed the organisation could break away.

The Mail on Sunday claimed it had seen minutes from a Premiership board meeting which discussed the possibility of clubs putting together an "unregulated competition" if the RFU refuses to end promotion and relegation.

The newspaper described the two organisations as "at war", but the Premiership says its discussion are at an early stage and it would honour agreements with the RFU.

"As anyone would expect the Premiership Rugby Board will discuss a number of issues at each meeting, with only some of those ever coming off the drawing board and into reality," said a Premiership Rugby spokesperson.

"Our Board Meetings are a forum for ideas to be discussed but until there is an agreed policy on any issue, these are just ideas.

"The topic of promotion and relegation from Gallagher Premiership Rugby has been discussed since the game turned professional and is of course a topic raised at many of our Board Meetings.

"If a proposal on promotion and relegation is agreed by our Board it will be presented to the RFU. We are in a partnership with the RFU under the Professional Game Agreement."

That partnership between the RFU and Premiership Rugby ties the organisations together until 2024 and is worth more than £200 million.

It also dictates the release of England players for international duty, while an "unregulated competition" could make players ineligible to play for their country.

Discussions over relegation to the Championship have been rumbling on for years, with the Premiership clubs keen to scrap the current structure.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek, Premiership Rugby chairman Ian Ritchie said: "We've got an eight-year agreement with the RFU -- we work very closely in partnership with them -- and we've not put any proposals to them about this yet. Nor have we finalised our own, so I think what we need to do is consider this further.

"I think it's a bit precipitous to say that there's a rift between us because we've not had the discussions yet.

"We all have views over the years of promotion and relegation and what happens with teams going up or down. But the uncertainty of that and how it works is another matter to consider, how it works on the economics of the game and the business."

The Premiership also said it would investigate any leak made to the Mail on Sunday:

"Any leak of minutes which are clearly a private record of Board discussions does however represent a serious breach of internal confidentiality which we shall need to formally investigate."