Brands look on as row erupts within rugby union

A row is brewing within rugby union as the sport’s governing body, The Rugby Football Union, seeks to push through plans to form a second tier of fully professional clubs without backing from the teams.

At a meeting on Friday (November 14) the RFU is scheduled to make a decision on the new competition, known as the Championship, which is to be formed from the top Division One sides from this season and relegated clubs from the Guinness Premier League. A total of 12 clubs would take part.

However, the rush to force through plans was blasted by Premier Rugby Ltd, the umbrella organisation for elite clubs and First Division Rugby, which represents the Division One teams.

PRL says new competitions cannot be forced through unilaterally, against the wishes of the proposed participants. PRL chief executive Mark McCafferty says: “It’s a nonsense.”

FDR chief executive Geoff Cooke says: “Clubs are very wary, nothing is clear. You wouldn’t expect anyone to make a business agreement without all the details. I don’t understand why the RFU is rushing this.”

Guinness is understood to be in discussions to take on the title sponsorship of the new league. Under the proposals, the competition would receive investment from RFU and the 12 clubs would split cash from a television deal with Sky Sports. The clubs, though, say a proper consultation should take place to assess the effects of a shorter playing calendar.

Meanwhile, the RFU has appointed the brand strategy agency Whitestone to take on the task of restructuring its brand and sub brand portfolio to make the governing body’s brands easier for stakeholders to leverage.

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