The WRU Board has confirmed changes to the Principality Premiership for the next two seasons in order to meet the changing needs of the clubs.
In the first half of the season, the 16-team semi-professional league will be split geographically into two east and west eight-team leagues, with the clubs playing each other home and away. The clubs will be split into east and west Wales leagues with RGC 1404 joining the west Wales league. This will guarantee more meaningful local derbies up to the New Year before all teams come together for the second half of the season.
Each club will then play the other 15 teams either home or away. At the split, points will be allocated to clubs based on league positions so the winners of the east and west leagues will go into the second half of the season with eight points, the clubs in second place will carry seven points into the 16-team league down to the eighth placed clubs who will carry one point, this will ensure all clubs remain in the race to be crowned Premier Division winners.
Every club will have a guaranteed 29 league matches during the season. Principality Premiership clubs will continue to work with the Regions to select Regional Premiership Select XVs for the British & Irish Cup, while the Foster’s Challenge Cup will not take place.
Following an extensive consultation process with the Principality Premiership clubs, the changes have been made in order to help support the clubs from a rugby, financial and supporters’ experience perspective and to fit into the national and regional pathway programme. There will be no play-offs, with the table-topping club at the end of the season crowned Principality Premiership champion in a straight-forward league system.
WRU Head of Rugby Operations Julie Paterson said, “We have taken on board the views expressed by the Principality Premiership clubs, particularly in respect of the number and regularity of fixtures required to enable the clubs to be sustainable. A number of surveys, workshops and meetings have been held with all club stakeholders – administrators, supporters, coaches and players, looking at different areas of the club game at this level.
“We hope the east and west Wales leagues will build on the history and heritage of the Principality Premiership clubs while maximising the pride and ability to attract community support that comes from traditional local derbies. The geographical split will also help reduce travel costs for clubs and supporters.
WRU Head of Rugby Performance Geraint John said, “The Principality Premiership is a vital competition in underpinning the professional game in Wales, providing a crucial stepping stone for our potential future professional players in addition to the British & Irish and Anglo-Welsh Cup competitions.
“We believe the new format and in particular, the additional, guaranteed local derbies in the first half of the season will further support the work of the Regions to establish the place of the Principality Premiership within the regional and national pathway in order to underpin player, coach and referee development, and at this time we feel this solution meets the vast majority of those needs.
“We will continue to assess the outcomes of this new format but there will be no further structural changes to the Principality Premiership until at least the 2019/20 season.”
Chris Clarke, Principality Premiership clubs chairman said, “The format of the league has been amended this coming season in line with the suggestions of supporters and clubs and we look forward to another challenging and competitive Season.”
Broadcast partners S4C and BBC will continue their live and highlights coverage of the Principality Premiership, S4C committing to 15 live Principality Premiership and WRU National Cup, Plate and Bowl matches.