Premiership relegation scrapped until 2024: How does it affect Doncaster Knights?

The expansion of the Gallagher Premiership to 14 teams will have a knock-on effect for Doncaster Knights and their Championship counterparts.

Doncaster Knights narrowly lost to Bristol in the 2016 Championship play-off final. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
Doncaster Knights narrowly lost to Bristol in the 2016 Championship play-off final. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Knights, who finished the shortened 2020/21 season in third place behind promoted Saracens and ambitious Ealing Trailfinders currently do not have the necessary financial power to compete at the top level.

However, the Castle Park club are vehemently opposed to the idea of ‘ringfencing’ and the door to the Premiership being permanently slammed shut.

The RFU Council last week voted in favour of a range of structural changes they say will improve the financial stability and sustainability of professional rugby during the next three seasons while also providing benefits for England Rugby and the community game as part of their 'Covid Recovery Plan'.

They include no relegation from the Premiership until 2024, no relegation from the Championship next season, no promotion from the Championship in 2023 and no Championship play-offs, in their current or previous guise, until 2025 at the earliest.

The annual one up, one down system will return for the 2024-25 season.

Under the plans approved by the RFU Council, the next three seasons will be as follows...

Season 2021-22

The Premiership will consist of 13 teams. ·

There will be no relegation from the Premiership. ·

The winner of the Championship will be promoted, subject to meeting the required minimum standards.

Season 2022-23

The Premiership will consist of 14 teams.

There will be no relegation or promotion so that clubs can plan with greater certainty and the recently promoted clubs are supported in making the transition between leagues.

The Premiership will conclude in May 2023 to allow increased preparation time for the England men’s squad ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Season 2023-24

The Premiership will consist of 14 teams.

There will be a play-off between the winner of the Championship (subject to that club meeting the required minimum standards) and the club finishing bottom of the Premiership, with the result to decide which club plays in the Premiership in the following season.

The RFU listed the ‘benefits for Championship clubs’ in a statement, saying: "In order to be able to achieve promotion a Championship club would require a multi-million-pound investment. There are a small number of Championship clubs with aspirations to play in the Premiership and more that don’t necessarily share that ambition.

“The proposals mean a further season of stability for the Championship clubs with no relegation in 2020/21 and 2021/22. This will allow clubs to have more certainty and the opportunity to encourage long-term strategic planning, including for those with specific ambitions for promotion.

“The RFU and PRL will commit to retaining current funding levels to the Championship until the end of the PGA in 2023/24 providing more financial certainty to the clubs.

“The RFU will work with the Championship clubs to review the format of the league and competition with the intention of developing a better model that can become more sustainable while still allowing clubs the opportunity to aspire to promotion to the Premiership should they wish to. A working group will consider opportunities and will report back to RFU Council by January 2022.

“The Championship will still be a pathway for players, coaches and match officials but club aspirations don’t have to be interlinked; players can progress to their potential without the specific need for their club to be promoted.

“Around half of the EPS squad in January 2021 had previously played for a Championship club (23 players), although of these players only one was not also registered with a RFU/Premiership academy during their time in the Championship.”

RFU president Jeff Blackett said: “This is not ringfencing the Premiership as some have suggested.

"In three of the four seasons covered by this, and our previous decision, a Championship club will have the opportunity to be promoted.

"[The RFU] Council has control of what happens thereafter and is committed to maintaining the integrity of the league structure by ensuring that access to the Premiership will be retained in the future."