Premiership: Rob Baxter pushes for 10 team competition, saying move to 13 clubs was ‘madness’

Adam Kyriacou

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter believes that reducing the Premiership to 10 clubs could be the smartest step to take in the current climate.

Baxter was openly critical of the decision to expand the competition to 13 teams last season, calling the move “madness” as it “wrecked the calendar”.

But with Worcester Warriors suspended and facing relegation, Baxter has leaned towards further reducing the Premiership in order to boost the product.

Wasps also in financial strife

Wasps currently have financial problems of their own and the Exeter boss admits that all clubs needed to have a look in the mirror in order to survive.

“Once you go through that Covid period, what you have to be able to do is build some resilience into everything you do, and businesses have kind of got to do that as well,” he said.

“We can’t run away and say everything is exactly the same as it was before.

“The new challenge for Premiership Rugby is getting an established system, platform, structure, whatever you want to call it.

“Whatever structure gets put in place at whatever time – three years, five years, 10 years – we’ve probably got to make sure we get it spot on because we don’t want these scenarios of changing league numbers happening again, because that is what causes disruption to the season.

Madness increasing to 13 clubs

“I thought it was madness going to 13 clubs. Going to 13 in a weird way almost signed a warrant for someone to not be able to stay in there. It doesn’t make any sense, and it wrecks the calendar anyway.

“I don’t want to see any club struggling financially, of course I don’t, but that is a completely different argument to what is the correct structure for the Premiership, international rugby and the leagues below.”

When pressed on what he feels is the answer for the Premiership at the moment, Baxter, whose side are in fine form so far in 2022/23, gave his take.

“I would have said 12 (clubs) because that was the structure we grew into,” he continued.

“But for the reason that the pressure is coming on in all kinds of ways – the clashes with international rugby – and I think supporters want to see more competitive games with more of their high-profile players.

“That is a genuine wish and a genuine frustration. There are a lot of games without international players.

Keen for a league of 10 teams

“And everyone is aware that there is a massive amount of focus on the number of games players are playing.

“You start to add it all up, and what is going to become the calendar that feels right over seven-eight years of a player’s professional career?

“And you would probably go that a league of about 10, home and away, with their international commitments, starts to sound very common sense.

“Alongside that, you’ve got less home games, but then hopefully you attract bigger crowds to a better spectacle if you are watching the international players playing every single week.”

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