The Sunday Times reports today on a proposal by the Rugby Football Union to not so much shake up the top tier of English rugby as cause a revolution within it. According to the paper, the RFU wants to set up a Super 10 league (as operates in the southern hemisphere) with the teams drawn from “Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Coventry, Worcester, Bedford, Saracens, Richmond, Bristol and Plymouth.”
As will be noticed from the above teams, the Super 10 would be spread geographically across the country, presumably to try and broaden rugby’s fan-base. There is, of course, a problem. Fans are rather partial to their teams and the Super 10 proposition excludes no less a team than Leicester Tigers – the Manchester United of English rugby both in terms of success and fan-base. Also missing out are my team, Harlequins. We cannot boast the success of Leicester, but we do get crowds of nearly ten thousand at every game. The RFU expects them to go over to Richmond? Amongst the other teams missing are Sale, current Premiership champions, and Wasps, another venerable and highly successful team.
The RFU’s idea is madness. The idea that we could end up with a league that includes clubs who have no stadium worth a penny (Richmond) over teams of such great heritage is an insult to the latter and to their fans. Fortunately, this afternoon, the RFU appears to have denied that this proposal is on the table. So, why do I worry? Well, the Super 10 idea may not be a live one at the moment, but given the internecine battle for power in English Rugby between the RFU and Premier Rugby (the umbrella organisation that represents the premier league clubs) one really cannot be certain that the RFU may not try to implement it in the future. My worry, therefore, comes from the culture of suspicion that this civil war of attrition has brought about. And to think we are the world champions. I can only wonder at why it ever ended up like this.