Club bosses facing RFU clash
ENGLAND'S top clubs appear to be on a collision course with the English RFU over plans to expand the Guinness Premiership.
Discussions have taken place between the owners of the 12 Premiership clubs about expanding the tournament to 14 teams and scrapping promotion and relegation to and from England's elite league.
Premier Rugby (PRL), the umbrella organisation for the top 12 English clubs, hopes to fund any expansion via a substantially increased TV contract, which is up for renewal in 2012.
Any change to the format of the Premiership would have to be ratified by the RFU however and it seems there is little enthusiasm for expansion within the corridors of powers at Twickenham.
The RFU last night insisted it had not yet even been consulted about the proposals. "Expanding the Guinness Premiership would have a major impact on the whole game of rugby in England from the England team right down to the lowest leagues," an RFU spokesman said.
"Making a change of this nature is not a decision for PRL and its broadcasters to make -- it would require RFU approval and that is unlikely to be forthcoming."
Bristol and Exeter, in the hunt for promotion from the Championship, as well as relegated Worcester, would likely be the principal beneficiaries of an expanded league because all teams have the facilities to satisfy the stringent criteria laid down by Premier Rugby for entry into the Premiership.
However, clubs such as London Welsh, who recently signed an agreement with the Ospreys, the Welsh region, to share "expertise and resources", also hold ambitions to join England's elite.
Meanwhile, Worcester will learn today whether the RFU will launch an investigation into a fracas involving players Chris Cracknell and James Collins and their respective fathers following the club's 12-10 loss against Leeds at Headingley on Sunday that ended their six-year stay in the Premiership. (© Daily Telegraph, London)