Prem bosses deny they are going to ditch RFU for breakaway league

PREMIERSHIP bosses deny they are close to ditching the RFU and forming a breakaway league.

A leaked document revealed clubs’ plans to go it alone unless Twickenham suits agree to scrap relegation and ring-fence English top-flight rugby.

 Prem bosses have denied plans to break away from the RFU

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Prem bosses have denied plans to break away from the RFU

Premiership Rugby chairman  Ian Ritchie described reports of a rift with the RFU  as “ridiculous.”

Yet minutes of a recent Premiership board meeting disclosed: “If the RFU were to be unwilling to support change, we shall need to ensure access to match officials and player insurance cover, as this would potentially become an unregulated competition.”

Ritchie — a former RFU chief executive — told BBC radio’s Sportsweek: “Like any board, you would expect all boards to discuss issues like Premiership promotion and relegation. And we’ve been doing that for some time.

“We’ve got an eight-year agreement with the RFU. We work very closely in partnership with them.

 Leaked documents claim clubs are planning to form own league unless RFU does away with relegation

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Leaked documents claim clubs are planning to form own league unless RFU does away with relegation

“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.

“We all have views over promotion and relegation and what happens with teams going up or down.

“But the uncertainty of that and  how it works on the economics of the game and the business is another  matter to consider.”

The Premiership’s deal with the RFU is believed to be worth £30million a year  to the clubs and covers compensation for releasing their England stars.

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Players in any breakaway league would not eligible for England.

Premiership Rugby — which is owned by the 12 top-flight clubs plus Championship leaders London Irish — last month agreed to sell a 27 per cent stake for £200m to Formula One’s former owners CVC Capital Partners.

They are keen to drag the game into the 21st century but want to keep the competition as a closed shop.

Ex-F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone madly claimed that if CVC could “tart the guys up, rugby would be better than the NFL.”

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Putting that claim in context, last season’s Super Bowl had 103.4m TV viewers in the USA alone — while last year’s Prem final peaked at 306,000 views on BT Sport.

BT Sport, who currently hold TV rights to show Premiership games, have always been cagey about revealing their viewing figures but claim numbers are going up.

BT’s £152m deal ends in 2021 and Sky Sports are keeping tabs on the domestic scene having kept hold of England internationals and Lions Tours.

PREMIERSHIP bosses deny they are close to ditching the RFU and forming a breakaway league.