Oval Talk

Justice served in promotion saga

Oval Talk

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After a lengthy pursuit London Welsh finally got what they were after on Friday when an independent appeal panel overturned the RFU's decision to deny the Championship winners their rightful place in the Premiership.

After taking victory in the Championship play-offs and securing what it believed was a spot in the top flight, the club was then told that it failed to match the 'entry criteria' as set out by the RFU and Premiership Rugby and would therefore not be allowed to make the step up.

An appeal followed and eventually London Welsh were handed the news they had been waiting for.

Hopefully, the result will now lead to a serious re-evaluation of the system and even an abolition of the overly demanding — and flimsy in many areas — criteria for playing in the top tier.

Oval Talk spouted forth on the issue in mid-May so we won't go over old ground. However, it would seem that despite the best efforts of the RFU to keep Newcastle in the Premiership at the expense of London Welsh the underdog has won out, and perhaps most satisfyingly the subsequent overruling of the governing body's decision could well have opened the door for reform.

Wishful thinking? Maybe. However, the striking down of a ruling by the administrative body of the sport on the grounds of EU and UK competition law lays the foundations for a strong argument for the scrapping of such a selective method of deciding who goes up.

The primary focus of the 'failure' of London Welsh to meet the 'entry criteria' was the fact they did not hold what is referred to as 'primacy of tenure' of their proposed home ground next season — the Kassam Stadium in Oxford. The fact that Wasps, Saracens and London Irish did not for the 2011-2012 season was a strong grounding in London Welsh's argument, and highlighted the weakness of the original decision to deny them promotion.

With such a blow having been struck against the system that decrees entry to the Premiership, there can be no other way forward than to completely rethink the process. There can be no denying that certain requirements have to be met by teams who do come up, but some halfway ground needs to be found in terms of how this is achieved.

How is a team supposed to gain promotion and prosper if it is denied its place — one gained through merit and on-pitch achievement — by the governing bodies which are entrusted with the health of the game?

In this instance justice has been done and London Welsh will now take their place in the Premiership. How they fare will be anybody's guess, but at least now we'll know.

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