Doncaster Knights: Clive Griffiths gives his verdict on decision to scrap Championship play-offs

Clive Griffiths
Clive Griffiths

Doncaster Knights director of rugby Clive Griffiths has hit out at the decision to scrap the Championship play-offs from next season onwards.

Instead the team which finishes top of the Championship will be promoted to the Aviva Premiership, providing they meet ‘minimum standard criteria’.

Griffiths feels the three-year plan will make the competition less appealing to spectators. The move will also make it significantly harder for Knights to reach the Premiership.

One of the arguments against the current system is that some teams contesting the play-offs have known in advance that their facilities fall well short of the minimum standards and had no Plan B.

Castle Park fails to meet the criteria but Knights have contingency plans in place should they go up this season.

To help compensate for the loss of the top-four play-offs, teams will get bonus payments depending on where they finish in the league.

Although the Welshman, who has previously argued for extra money for Championship clubs, welcomes the prospect of more central funding he is not in favour of the new system.

“You only had to look at our game at London Scottish on Saturday,” he said.

“Even though they were down in seventh they still had an outside chance of making the play-offs so there was something for both teams to play for.

“If this was next season then London Irish would be all but promoted and we’d have been playing for pounds rather than promotion.

“How would you have sold that to the public?”

Griffiths also fears that the new format will increase the likelihood of relegated sides, boosted by parachute payments, bouncing straight back to the Premiership.

The Welshman said a play-off competition for a ‘Championship Shield’ between the teams finishing second to fifth – with the final at Twickenham – would have helped soften the blow.

Ian Ritchie, RFU chief executive said: “The RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Greene King IPA Championship clubs agree this a positive step forward.

“The first-past-the-post system will allow the promoted club a greater amount of time to recruit ahead of the next season which is important for their preparation in playing in the Premiership.

“In addition, all of the clubs will also benefit from extra funding provided by the RFU and Premiership Rugby.”

Doncaster reached the play-off final last year when they were narrowly beaten by Bristol and are on course to finish in the top four again this season.