Championship to be Premiership 'naughty corner' - reaction to scrapping play-offs

London Irish
Championship leaders London Irish are favourites to make an instant return to the top flight

The Championship has become a "naughty boys corner" for relegated Premiership sides, according to the Cornish Pirates chairman, after the scrapping of play-offs from the second tier.

From next season, the Championship winners will go up automatically if they meet 'minimum standard criteria'.

Jersey and Yorkshire Carnegie are among clubs that are in favour of the change.

"I hope it doesn't lead to the Championship becoming a non-entity," said Pirates chairman Paul Durkin.

"If you're relegated from the Premiership you're put in the naughty boys corner, which is in the Championship, for a year and expected to come back up.

"That's what it feels like to us, the way that it's going - it takes away from the competition, I think."

As part of the new agreement between the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby, Championship clubs will be given increased funding.

Durkin told BBC Radio Cornwall that second-tier sides will share £2.7m between them over three years, but relegated Premiership sides will receive a parachute payment of "over £3m".

"While first past the post is a good idea, and I would be in favour of that if there was a level playing field, this is not a level playing field," he continued.

'I've never liked the concept of play-offs'

The majority of Championship sides, including Jersey Reds, are not eligible for promotion, as they lack the required ground facilities.

"You've got London Irish sitting top of the Championship, 15 points ahead of Yorkshire Carnegie - they're undefeated," Reds chairman Mark Morgan told BBC Radio Jersey.

"It would be very unfair to get to the end of the season and, just because they have one bad game in a knock-out situation, they don't go to the Premiership."

The 2015-16 Championship play-off final was held on 25 May, with the new Premiership campaign starting 100 days later.

"To be in the middle of May recruiting for a new season that is just two or three months away is impossible - and we can see the result that's had on Bristol," Morgan added.

"Although they would not say that they have ring fenced the Premiership, to all intents and purposes on a financial basis that's really what's happened."

Jersey Reds
Jersey are only two places and six points below the Championship's final play-off spot

Yorkshire Carnegie were in the top flight as recently as 2011 - they are now second in the Championship, which will put them in the promotion play-offs this term but count for nothing from next season.

Although scrapping the play-offs could arguably make it more difficult for them to go up, executive president Sir Ian McGeechan, the former British & Irish Lions coach, supports the RFU change.

"Having been part the play-off system for a number of years, I am pleased to see the return of the first-past-the-post system," he said.

"The decision to make this announcement now is particularly welcome for all the clubs and allows the Championship sides the opportunity to get their financial and personnel planning in place for 2017-18 at the right time of year."

Other side of the coin

Exeter v Saracens
Exeter have bucked the trend of promoted sides struggling in the top flight, reaching last season's Premiership final

The Championship play-offs were introduced for the 2009-10 campaign, with Exeter Chiefs the side to gain promotion despite finishing second in the regular season.

Bristol - the side Exeter defeated in the final - have been the side most affected by the play-offs, finishing top of the league on five occasions before finally reaching the Premiership last year.

"Most people would probably say [scrapping play-offs] benefits the Premiership - I wouldn't disagree with that," Exeter head coach Rob Baxter told BBC Radio Devon.

"It'll be a tougher scenario and a different management situation for the regular Championship clubs, because they can't focus on seeing if they can create some moments in a final.

"They now have to create a good pre-season that builds a good start to the season, because they'll need to be up and challenging from day one."

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