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Premiership Rugby

Automatic promotion and relegation to stay

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Premier Rugby bosses could not agree with their First Division counterparts on the promotion issue, forcing Baron to decide the outcome, opting for the automatic 'one up, one down' system to continue, rather than have a play-off between the Premiership's bottom side and the Division One champions.

The current Zurich Premiership season saw Bristol relegated after finishing bottom of the table, while Rotherham were promoted to the top-flight after winning the First Division for the second successive season.

In a lengthy document out-lining his reasons for backing the automatic 'one up, one down' system, RFU Chief Executive Baron said: "It must be remembered that even at the professional level rugby is a sport first and a business second.

"If we do not get the rugby decisions right there is no basis for sound businesses. The RFU has, I believe, a duty to make sure that the ethos and values of Rugby Union are maintained and that the right rugby decisions are indeed taken.

"By doing this the RFU can create the right environment for the business of professional rugby to grow and flourish."

However, Premier Rugby were quick to voice their disapproval of the decision, saying they were "extremely disappointed" and that it was "a massive blow to the future of the professional game" in England with it likely to affect investment in the game as a whole and harm England's chances of winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Earlier, Baron had said: "It has, unfortunately, not been possible to reach agreement between PRL Premier Rugby ltd (PRL) and First Division Rugby (FDR) on the promotion and relegation arrangements going forward. As a result I had to use my casting vote.

"This was not an easy decision to make as each side presented good arguments in support of their own position. Having carefully considered the representations from both sides, however, I do not believe that the case has been made to change the promotion and relegation arrangement to that of a play-off.

"I believe that there are better solutions to this issue than the two choices available to the Panel. Some of these options are covered in the draft 10-year England Rugby Strategic Plan recently tabled.

"I hope that both parties will engage in debate over these options and that these discussions will start soon."

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