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Clubs 'not at war' with English RFU - Premiership chief

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Ian Ritchie, the chairman of Premiership Rugby. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

Ian Ritchie, the chairman of Premiership Rugby. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

Getty Images

Ian Ritchie, the chairman of Premiership Rugby. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

Leicester chairman Pete Tom was among leading figures in Premiership Rugby to play down claims of a breakaway from the Rugby Football Union, although there is an acknowledgement that there are "plenty of talking points on the table", as each side looks to further its business as well as protect its own interests.

The onus is very much on exploring new avenues rather than rejecting the existing model.

The prospect of a rift between the various parties is remote, even though a Sunday newspaper reported, from official Premiership Rugby minutes of a board meeting in April, that the notion of a stand-alone "unregulated competition" had been discussed as a contingency were there to be a collapse in co-operation over issues such as promotion and relegation.

Ian Ritchie, the chairman of Premiership Rugby, was quick to dismiss the notion that the parties were "at war".

The former chief executive of the RFU said: "It is precipitous to say there is a rift between us.

"We have not started to have any conversations and finalise our views on this (promotion and relegation) and to suggest a civil war is imminent is, frankly, ridiculous.

"Let us be clear, we have an eight-year deal with the RFU."

That arrangement is worth £30m a year to Premiership Rugby until 2024.

Since the April board meeting, the clubs have struck a deal with private equity firm CVC, which will invest £200m in Premiership Rugby in return for a 27pc share in the business.

There have been regular calls for the Premiership to be ring-fenced by bringing an end to promotion and relegation.

However, Premiership Rugby has yet to submit any proposal to the RFU.

"All sorts of things are discussed at board meetings and discussed in a way that does not necessarily mean these matters are ever going to happen," said Tom.

"It is a talking shop. All sorts are discussed that are not meant to be controversial at all. They are ideas to kick around. Taken out of context they can sound a bit revolutionary."

One other club source acknowledged that all manner of options were thrown into the melting pot at board meetings.

"You talk about everything before narrowing it down, get that off the table to leave what's real, what's not real," said the source.

"I can imagine round-the-houses talk but only as conversation not as possible policy, not as to what we are actually going to do."

Premiership Rugby endorsed that view.

"The topic of promotion and relegation has been discussed since the game turned professional and is of course a topic raised at many of our board meetings," said a spokesman.

"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."

The RFU noted that it had not received any such proposal nor had it made any pledges towards Premiership Rugby about a temporary three to four-year suspension of promotion and relegation.

"We have not had a proposal from the clubs for ring-fencing," said an RFU spokeswoman.

"We have not made a proposal or offer to them either." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk