CHRIS KIRWAN: Bigger is better for the Premiership
SO it’s there in black and white.
“Subject to the club finishing top in the Championship Division at the end of the 2013/2014 season meeting the necessary criteria to play in the Premier Division, the team finishing bottom of the Premier Division at the end of the 2013/2014 season will be relegated to the Championship Division.”
The Welsh Rugby Union’s league rules document gives hope to Ebbw Vale and provides a potential headache for the Dragons.
Providing the Steelmen get their A licence then they will be back in the top flight if (and it’s a big if with the likes of Bargoed against them) they win their fourth title on the spin.
The certainty of one up, one down adds value to the Premiership and the Championship – clubs will know where they stand before embarking on a tough campaign.
That clarity is welcome but it also raises the possibility of an imbalanced top flight.
Consider this scenario: Cardiff, who have strengthened well this summer, finish bottom of the pile and Ebbw win the title.
It would leave just one Premiership side under Cardiff Blues’ umbrella – Pontypridd – while there would be four from the Dragons region, stretching resources to the limit.
There has already been a summer disagreement about whether hooker Elliot Dee should be playing at Newport’s Rodney Parade or remaining at Bedwas’ Bridge Field in the coming season; three is the Dragons’ magic number.
Of course, some clubs are happy to have slightly less regional involvement than others and they should be allowed to continue with that, after all, they wouldn’t get a Premiership licence if they weren’t committed to developing playing and coaching standards.
I am sure that Ebbw Vale would be happy forego the services of Dragons players that are in need of game time and go up against the likes of Ponty, Neath et al with their current squad.
WRU chiefs were actually keen on further cutting the size of the Premiership teams and it is telling that the document states that the 2014/15 season will be ‘up to 12’ teams.
But with clubs wanting more fixtures to fill the coffers and the Union keen to promote north Walians RGC 1404, surely a larger top flight is worth pursuing?