RFU faces ‘strong opposition’ on relegation vote from BT Sport

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has pushed back the vote to decide whether to suspend relegation from Premiership Rugby this season.

The governing body for rugby union in England was due to vote on the matter on 5 February but has instead decided to consult stakeholders, including BT Sport, before making a final decision.

The RFU has contemplated abandoning relegation and increasing the league to 13 clubs next season due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, domestic rights-holder BT is said to be concerned that removing relegation would take the competitive edge away from the top flight and reduce the value of its broadcast package which is worth around £100 million.

A statement from the RFU read: “The RFU council were due to table a vote today on proposals from the RFU around no relegation for the 2020/21 season from the Gallagher Premiership.

“The vote would also pave the way for a wider review of future seasons structures, including increased preparation time for the England senior men’s team ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023.”

A report from The Times has suggested that the RFU has opted to abandon the plan to forfeit relegation due to opposition from BT Sport, which claimed it would ‘seriously’ damage its broadcast agreement.

BT and the RFU agreed a new deal earlier in August to show each of the remaining games from the 2019/20 season across the broadcaster’s various platforms, with fans unable to attend top flight fixtures.

In December, the pay-television broadcaster announced it had retained the rights to the top flight rugby competition, despite growing interest from rivals Amazon. The two parties discussed launching an official Premiership Rugby app to air games in the absence of spectators.

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