Premiership: Wasps’ demise ‘a very dark day for rugby’, says former flanker James Haskell

Colin Newboult

Former flanker James Haskell has been left ‘devastated’ after Wasps entered administration, leading to 167 players and staff losing their jobs.

The Coventry-based outfit became the second Premiership side to suffer that fate this season, following on from Worcester Warriors last month.

Wasps have been suspended from competition and, like Worcester, will be relegated from the top-flight at the end of the campaign.

It has left rugby union in a perilous position and Haskell believes that other clubs will follow unless changes are made.

The way rugby is going

“It’s devastating,” Haskell told Sky Sports News. “Your thoughts are with the players and staff, and it’s not just the immediate people you think about, it’s all the support staff.

“Some players are going to be lucky to move on to other clubs, but the nature of rugby at the moment with the salary cap is these players are going to go from earning good money – rightly so for their skills and the way they put their bodies on the line – to reduced salary and some people won’t get a job.

“It’s awful, but I think it’s quite indicative of the way rugby is going. I don’t think Worcester and Wasps are going to be the only clubs, I think some drastic change needs to happen and, unfortunately, I think rugby has been faffing around for too long and not dealing with this issue.

“I think it’s a very dark day for rugby across the whole game.”

Haskell began his professional career at Wasps before moving to French side Stade Francais in 2009. Spells in Japan and New Zealand followed before he returned to his first club in 2013 and spent five more seasons there.

There have been suggestions that the Premiership will be reduced to 10 teams, a viewpoint the ex-England flanker understands, but the 37-year-old wants to see Wasps and Worcester back in the top-tier at some point.

“At the moment, the RFU have stated none of the clubs in the Championship are fit to move up to the Premiership,” Haskell said.

“They’re never going to bring anyone else up, yet as soon as you go into administration you are relegated.

“I do think it is a bit bizarre and we should look after these teams because there isn’t any replacement, but there is an argument a smaller league becomes more sustainable and makes more money.

“I just hope those two clubs aren’t the fall guys to get the rest of it in line, but that’s what it’s looking like.”

Central contracts

Another suggestion has been to centrally contract the England players, but Haskell would go a step further and follow the American football system.

“There are so many different political situations going on and I think having everything centrally contracted, almost like an NFL model (is the way forward),” he added.

“I think the traditions of rugby are great, but at the top level, to make it sustainable, we need to make it an entertainment business, we need to build up superstars, we need a franchise model, everything has got to be centrally managed and the right people in the right places.

“At the moment, all this intermeshed, who’s in charge, who’s making decisions is never going to work and I think the NFL model, or a franchise model is probably the way to with a central commissioner who makes a decision and sticks to it.

“Just look at the concussion stuff; we’re trying to make rugby safer, we shouldn’t be doing contact training in the week, but everybody is faffing around and that’s the problem with rugby – there’s a lot of faffing, a lot of talking and no hard-line decisions.”

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