Ollie Phillips: Merit in scrapping relegation from Premiership

Scrapping relegation from the Premiership is the eternal debate and the question reared its head once again this week when the topic was part of a wider discussion at a professional game board meeting.

I’m torn on the issue. I can see the financial benefits of having no promotion to or relegation from the Premiership. It means that teams can build and invest properly and the need to go out and win at all costs would no longer exist.

Teams could play more creative and expansive rugby because the cost of getting it wrong would be alleviated. Demotion from the top flight is expensive and extremely damaging to a club’s brand and overall business strategy.

On the flipside, having relegation promotes a player’s understanding of how to win games and eke out performances at crucial times. It instills a winning mentality and makes the campaign more exciting for spectators.

There is also the argument that abolishing relegation would be detrimental to sides further down the pyramid because if there is no way for them to reap the rewards of their efforts with promotion, then you question what the point is.

On balance, though, I would have to say there is merit in ring-fencing the Premiership, something that is already in place in many ways, albeit indirectly, given the expense and associated costs of surviving in the top flight.

There are only a couple of sides, Bristol and Yorkshire Carnegie, who can afford promotion and have aspirations of competing in the Premiership, and they should not be neglected or denied that opportunity.

That brings a separate question of potential Premiership enlargement, but if new teams are free from the threat of relegation and could structure investment over a longer period of time then that is likely to see the game flourish in a more fruitful way.

Perhaps a ring-fenced Premiership would also allow more people to revel in the splendour of semi-professional and amateur rugby given that finance would be less of an all-encompassing factor.

Talking of the amateur game, I am so excited to be playing for Cambridge in Thursday’s Varsity Match at Twickenham and it will be the perfect way to bring the curtain down on my career.

Before I was forced to retire due to a calf injury sustained while preparing for the Sevens World Cup in Moscow in 2013, I still had aspirations of appearing at an Olympic Games.

The Varsity Match remains one of the crown jewels of the amateur game and will bring closure to my playing days. All the traditions of the sport are embodied in this showdown and I always dreamed I could play a part in its history.

Ollie Phillips is a former England Sevens captain and now a director at PwC, focusing on organisational, cultural and technological change.@OlliePhillips11

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