FUTURE COMPETITION STRUCTURE
When For the 2022/2023 the Adult Male Future Competitions Structure will see a change to League Cups and Lower XVs from Level 3 and below.
Why The working group considered data that showed increased first team numbers are required to fulfil a season, from approximately 25 two decades ago to 43 players on average currently. The number is increasing yearly as players choose to play fewer games. In some cases, this has led to pressure on Lower XVs in clubs and increased walkovers, alongside a reduction in the number of teams competing in the RFU leagues. To address this trend, the new competitions structure for leagues at all levels will be organised according to four core principles:
Putting player welfare/needs at the forefront of decisions
Ensuring a high quality of player experience
Supporting club sustainability
What 1. A rapid review of competition structures will take place every three years
2. At all levels there will be a protected two-week break over the Christmas period and protected weekend breaks (at points to be determined through the season)
League Rugby All teams at a given level will be grouped together geographically to reduce travel times and distance. The league season will be shortened to address concerns shared by players around the intensity of the current league structure.
The size of leagues at Levels 5 and below to be capped at 12 teams, and at Levels 3 & 4 to be capped at 14 teams. From season 2022/23, the English Clubs Championship at Level 3 and below will consist of:
a. One league at Level 3
b. Three leagues at Level 4
c. Six leagues at Level 5
d. Twelve leagues at Level 6
e. Approximately sixteen leagues at Level 7*
f. Approximately 20 leagues at Level 8*
g. At Level 9 and below will be determined by the relevant organising committee*
*Exact number of leagues to be determined by final size of leagues, number of team entries and local need. At Level 4 to 6 this will be implemented on a regional basis, whereas at Level 7 and below this will be implemented broadly on Constituent Body (CB) boundaries (retaining some flexibility where it makes sense for clubs on CB borders to play in different CBs).
Cup Rugby Level 5 and below A cup competition with mid-season, optional, entry will be introduced per level from Level 5 and below to provide a varied diet of rugby with final league position determining the competition entered (e.g. Cup, Plate, or Bowl at respective levels).
Cup competitions will take place upon completion of the league season to avoid fixture clashes. The cup competition provides an opportunity for additional home games to compensate for lost home fixtures from the reduction in the league size.
The competition format will be determined such that pools will operate at Level 5 and top tier of Level 6, and with regional knockout waterfall competitions at the bottom tier of Level 6 and for Level 7 and below, all culminating in ‘Community Game Finals’ to celebrate community rugby at prestigious locations.
Lower XV teams from season 2022/23 Lower XV teams will be able to play in the English Clubs Championship up to and including Level 7, (no longer capped at Level 8), subject to specific criteria to be set out in the RFU Regulations.
The addition of Lower XVs teams aims to offer appropriate competition opportunities for appropriate Lower XV teams, and to increase the number of teams in leagues at certain levels, which should decrease travel time for clubs and players.
For example, by grouping on a regional basis, a 2 nd or 3 rd XV team in Level 7 could be of similar standard to a 1st or 2nd Xv team in League 8 and they will now be able to compete against each other if they wish. This is voluntary. Clubs can sign up and will only be admitted if they fulfil the criteria, the detail of which will be confirmed in the implementation phase, but which is likely to offer some sensitivity to local needs.