That will mean no relegation for the next two seasons, presumably even in situations like that which engulfed Saracens in 2020. They were demoted after admitting a series of salary cap breaches.
The expansion plan forms part of a raft of changes overseen by the RFU. As well as no relegation for two seasons, the Championship winners in the 2021/22 campaign will be the last to enjoy the perks of automatic promotion. Thereafter, a new playoff system will be introduced, which pits the top side from the second tier against the team that finishes bottom of the Premiership in a ‘winner-takes-all’ format.
However, that could only be a temporary measure, with an option to reinstall traditional promotional and relegation in three years’ time still on the table.
The changes had led to some accusing the RFU and the Premiership of ‘ringfencing’ top-flight places and protecting those at threat of relegation; however, this is a notion that has been rejected by the president of the RFU, Jeff Blackett.
There will also be a requirement for Championship teams with aspirations of promotion to show that they can improve their grounds to a Premiership standard. That was the conundrum facing Ealing last season, whose Trailfinders Sports Ground would not have passed the Minimum Standards Criteria had they found a way past Sarries in the playoffs.
It has also been agreed that the 2021/22 season will end earlier, in May, than normal in order to allow England to prepare more thoroughly for next summer’s World Cup in France.
Saracens Aiming for Instant Redemption
It will be interesting to see what kind of reception Saracens get on their return to top-flight action in the upcoming campaign.
There are those who believe they have served their time for a number of financial fair play breaches, and yet there are those, including some prominent Premiership figures, who believe their punishment didn’t go far enough.
Indeed, some insist the Men in Black ‘took’ relegation rather than opening up their accounts for a full audit, a process that may well have uncovered further misdemeanours.
As it is, they will return to the Premiership with a squad capable of challenging for honours once more. Saracens, who were crowned champions four times in the space of five seasons prior to their unceremonious relegation, have a squad that has retained the services of the likes of Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Elliot Daly and Mako Vunipola, to name just a few.
Consequently, it’s no surprise that the sportsbooks make Saracens their favourites to win the Grand Final in 2022. There are plenty of betting sites willing to facilitate bettors and many of these brands offer casino games too, with the gambling sector enjoying a boom in popularity thanks to the rise of super-fast broadband and smartphone capabilities. Rugby fans are only too happy to immerse themselves in anything related to the sport, from console games (who can forget the legendary Jonah Lomu branded title?) to podcasts from the likes of Brian Moore, James Haskell and Mike Tindall. There’s even a rugby-based slot game, Rugby Star, available, and if that is of interest you can check these guys out and explore the myriad of promotions and bonuses available to new players.
Given the volatile nature of the playoff system, trying to predict the winner is akin to rolling the dice or spinning the roulette wheel. Bristol Bears, the regular season champions in 2020/21, must also be considered as will Harlequins, the playoff winners, and the Exeter Chiefs, who remain a considerable presence at the business end of English rugby.
Whichever way you look at it, the new season is shaping up nicely – it will be fascinating to see what kind of reception Saracens get on their return to the Premiership.