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League restructuring vote faces two-month delay

Opponents of RFU plans to reduce the size of leagues below the Champi- onship have scored a crucial victory fol- lowing confirmation that a final vote on the proposed restructure is to be deferred by two months.

Voting had been due to take place at this Friday’s RFU Council meeting on whether to implement the controversial proposals, which include reducing National League One from 16 to 14 clubs and flatten- ing the pyramid below.

Recommendations from the Adult Competitions Review (ACR), which has been two years in the making, include creating four divisions of 12 teams at Level 4, eight leagues of 12 at Level 5 and a further 16 divisions below that.

But the majority of clubs remain implacably opposed to the changes and three hours have been set aside at this Friday’s meeting to debate matter in full, before further con- sultation takes place ahead of the decisive vote in June.

Of 48 National League One and Two clubs polled, The Rugby Paper can reveal that 30 (62.5%) wish to retain the status quo, while eight (16. 67%) want 15-team leagues and only 11 (20. 86%) are in tune with the RFU’s proposals.

The RFU wants to intro- duce cup competitions to make up a revised fixture list, but National Clubs Association chairman Norman Robertson told The Rugby Paper: “ Why? Cups are no longer of any interest to people at our level.

“The Game Review rec- ommends no more than 30 games a season for play- ers, rising to 32 with play-offs, but that’s what we get now.”

The RFU cites player welfare and reduced travel amongst the drivers behind the proposals, with ACR chairman John Dou- glas saying: “That seems to

be the wishes of the play- ers and we’re anxious to retain people in the game.”

But Robertson counters: “I speak to directors of rugby all the time and there aren’t that many players playing 30 matches anyway. Most will play 24- 25 matches and even then a lot of them don’t play for the whole game.”

Douglas offered assur- ances that plans will not be forced through, adding: “There’ll be a debate and a vote, so it can’t be rail- roaded.”

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