Premiership Rugby have been warned that their plans to introduce a 10-month domestic season from 2020 have not yet been approved after the Rugby Players’ Association outlined “fundamental concerns” about the potential impact on player welfare.
A number of leading players and directors of rugby have already voiced concerns about the plan to extend the domestic season by one month as part of the new global-season agreement – which could see international players face an 11-month campaign given the decision to move the summer tours from June to July.
Future British & Irish Lions tours are expected to finish in August from 2021.
World Rugby had anticipated that the domestic leagues would move the start of their seasons from September to October to accommodate the move of the summer Test window.
Premiership Rugby, however, immediately announced it planned to retain the traditional September start while also switch their league final from the end of May to the end of June in order to eradicate any overlaps between club and international matches.
RPA demanded a meeting with the league organisers and said the new plans had raised concerns about the “potential physical and psychological impact on player welfare”.
The players’ union warned that it was now engaged in a widespread consultation with players and industry experts before agreeing to any changes to the season structure.
“We recently met with Premiership Rugby to discuss the proposals to extend the domestic season by one month from 2020,” said an RPA statement.
“At the meeting we echoed the fundamental concerns expressed publicly by several leading players, including our chairman, Christian Day, around any potential physical and psychological impact on player welfare.
“We negotiated hard with Premiership Rugby last summer to agree a guaranteed 5-week rest period for players following the regular season and summer tours, and the RPA Players Board’s position on giving players sufficient rest and recuperation around a well-structured off-season remains sacrosanct.”
The RPA warned that any changes would have to be approved by the Professional Game Board – made up of representatives from Premiership Rugby, the Rugby Football Union, the players’ union and the Championship - and through the Professional Game Agreement.
“Over the past few weeks we have been canvassing the views of our members and will continue to do so as discussions continue,” the RPA statement continued.
“We are also in consultation with industry experts in the fields of sports science, physical conditioning and mental well-being. We have the utmost faith in the quality and integrity of strength and conditioning experts operating in the domestic and international game in England, and their feedback will be crucial in objectively shaping any season structure changes.”
Tom Youngs, the Leicester Tigers captain, became the latest high-profile figure to hit out at the proposed 10-month Premiership season earlier this week, saying the prospect “fills players with dread”.