THE CHIEF Executive of Worcester Warriors has described the decision not to ring-fence the Aviva Premiership this season as a ‘missed opportunity’.
Jim O’Toole has been part of the campaign to get rugby bosses to impose a moratorium on promotion and relegation while expanding the top flight to 14 teams.
Talks had been underway this summer, but Rob Andrew, RFU performance director, announced earlier last month there would be no change to the league structure.
Although admitting he was not surprised by the move, O’Toole told the Observer he was disappointed as he believed there was a chance to strengthen the game.
“I think there was an opportunity missed to bring up a couple of clubs that would add real value to the competition and give those clubs in the Championship with aspirations to become a Worcester or an Exeter a chance to regroup, plan properly and avoid what happened with London Welsh,” he said.
“For the Championship, broadly speaking, you have got one or two teams that are absolutely desperate to get out of that league, as were we and Bristol.
“You have also got a number of clubs who are quite happy to be in the top four or five who do not want to get promoted this season and there are other clubs who would be quite happy to be in mid-table.
“There are also a couple of clubs that in three or four years could be ready for promotion.
“I think that if we keep going the way it is going at the moment with one up, one down you will see anomalies like London Welsh again as teams will come up who will not be prepared financially.”
O’Toole said other owners of top flight clubs also wanted change and he said they will continue their fight to get the Premiership ring-fenced in a few years.
“There is a broader argument that if you look at the clubs that have recently been in the bottom third, like London Irish, Newcastle and Gloucester, they would all bite your hand off to have the threat of relegation taken away,” he said.
“I have been at a club where there was a relegation plan in place and it was not pretty, so the moratorium has a lot of appeal for a lot of people.”