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Half of Premiership clubs plan breakaway from PRL

Premiership trophy

A group of six English Premiership clubs are planning to breakaway from PRL, the administrative arm which represents the 13 Premiership clubs.

They have contacted Martyn Thomas, the former RFU chairman, to use the experienced administrator as a sounding board.

Thomas says that the move, which would create a schism between two parts of the same organisation, is a sign of troubled times in which Rugby Union has to change rapidly if it wants to avoid going bankrupt.

Thomas said: “I know that half a dozen of the English Premiership clubs are planning a similar move to the breakaway which formed Premier League football in 1992.

“They want to go it alone, and part of the issue is that the PRL infrastructure is costing too much.”

Thomas added: “I understand that matters came to a head when some Premiership club owners asked PRL officials for the retained money from Premiership funding held by the administrative body – which is more than £28 million – be paid to the clubs, and that PRL declined to do so.”

Thomas said that the breakaway clubs believe that they can create a “super league” in which they will have an asset which is attractive to television broadcasters.

In order to capitalise on the opportunity, it is almost certain they will need the support of the other seven Premiership clubs.

Thomas says he suspects that because PRL is costing the owners “an arm and a leg”, including staff costs of over £2m a year, the remaining clubs will be willing to listen.

It will not be lost on millionaire owners, like Bath’s Bruce Craig and Sale Sharks Simon Orange, that having control of their own television rights could be a considerable benefit.

But if those clubs declined to join them the breakaway six could look for cross-border recruits in Wales and Scotland although that would prove problematic with the complications of WRU and Scottish Rugby player contracts.

Thomas added: “The world has changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and Rugby Union is in a very precarious place.”

Thomas, who was widely credited as the mastermind behind England’s successful World Cup 2015 bid, also had words of warning for the RFU.

“Unfortunately, the RFU has been mismanaged since the 2015 World Cup, and we have to ask where all the money has gone.”

PETER JACKSON

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