Don’t go holding your breath on my say so but the Championship might be about to take a major step forward in terms of credibility.
At least it will next week if the Rugby Football Union management board ratifies proposals agreed by a majority of second tier clubs that will see the end of the contrived and convoluted play-off system currently making a mockery of the division.
Unfortunately sense has been seen about two years too late, but at least the Championship turkeys have finally voted for Christmas and accepted the fact that fewer home matches is an acceptable price to pay for a sensible structure.
If the RFU accepts the new system the side that finishes bottom of next year’s second tier will be demoted to the third without the need for the public execution of the relegation play-offs. How radical.
The promotion situation won’t quite be so logical, there are plans for the top four to enter two-leg semi-finals and a final to determine who goes up to the Premiership.
Unfortunately, that still doesn’t eradicate the risk of the fourth-placed side finishing 60 points behind the league leaders but winning the right to go up. However, Rome wasn’t built and all that.
The 11 home league matches will be augmented by at least three in the British & Irish Cup, which will be reorganised along the lines of the Heineken Cup.
That means six pools of four teams playing home and away with the winners and two best runners-up going into the quarter-finals.
The hope is that the RFU will encourage clubs to take this competition more seriously by offering cash inducements.
One can only hope this is done on a basis similar to football’s Champions League, in which money is awarded for games won at the group stage as well as in the knockout phase.
That, in a single move, would make every club pay much more attention, as will the more standardised structure. With a title sponsor – imagine that – and the same format as the more publicised Premiership, rugby’s netherworld could be on the brink of illumination.
That said, many clubs will have to rethink their business plans because of the loss of a couple of home matches, which will cost them upwards of £15,000 and oblige them to rethink their season ticket prices.
That, though, will not necessarily be a bad thing if it has a deflationary impact on salary demands and what the paying customer is charged at the gate.
But don’t hold your breath.