12 October 2022

Rob Baxter says 10 clubs in Gallagher Premiership would be ‘very common sense’

12 October 2022

Exeter boss Rob Baxter has indicated that a Gallagher Premiership of 10 clubs could be the way forward for English domestic rugby’s flagship competition.

Baxter reiterated his view that it was “madness” to expand to 13 clubs, although that figure has now been reduced with Worcester being suspended and facing relegation following the club’s partial liquidation.

Administrators are attempting to find a buyer for the Warriors, while Wasps – Exeter’s opponents at Sandy Park on Saturday – also have major financial issues amid an uncertain future.

Baxter, though, stresses that clubs’ financial problems are a totally separate issue from the Premiership’s current format and fixture calendar.

“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.

“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.”

I think supporters want to see more competitive games with more of their high-profile players

Asked what his ideal Premiership number of clubs would be, Baxter added: “I would have said 12 because that was the structure we grew into.

“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.

“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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