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 RFU Championship: What next for English rugby's troubled second tier?

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PostSubject: RFU Championship: What next for English rugby's troubled second tier?   Sat Jan 28, 2017 10:47 pm

Clubs liquidated and expelled, others forced to sell their assets to complete the season and a muddled system for promotion.

English rugby's Championship appears a troubled place, one level below the promised land of the Premiership.

Events at London Welsh - a professional club which now ceases to exist - have shown a host of issues off the pitch are blighting the action on it.

BBC Sport speaks to administrators, club officials, former players and correspondents to investigate if English rugby can sustain a fully professional second tier by looking at:

What is the point of the Championship?

"Nobody has quite worked out what the purpose of the Championship is," Nigel Melville, the Rugby Football Union's director of professional rugby, told BBC Sport when asked to assess its current state.

"Commercially, we're not a very strong product. We've got to look at it in terms of sustainability of our professional game for the long term."

The Championship is made up of three London-based clubs, two from the Home Counties, four from Yorkshire and East Midlands and one each from Cornwall and Jersey.

Melville, a former head coach at Gloucester, and director of rugby at Wasps, has spent his first season as Rob Andrew's successor gauging the mood around the clubs.

Having listened, he is set to put his proposals for reform to them.

Created in 2009 as a 12-team fully professional competition, the Championship replaced its 16-side predecessor National League One. This season began as a 12-team competition but, following London Welsh's expulsion, there will be no relegation.

However, the controversial promotion play-off system remains for the top four at the end of the regular season.

This campaign looks set to be the last of this format despite Melville admitting the play-offs have proved the Championship's "most economically successful games".

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