London Irish DoR Declan Kidney says there was no other choice but to scrap relegation from the Gallagher Premiership this season.
The announcement, which had the “unanimous support” of the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Championship clubs, guarantees the Exiles top-flight rugby in 2021/22.
At the end of the current season, the Championship winners will be promoted to the Premiership for the 2021/22 campaign, provided they meet the current Minimum Standards Criteria.
That will increase the number of competing clubs in the Premiership to 13.
“From a rugby point of view, nobody wants to be coming last. From a business point of view, there was no other decision to be made,” said Kidney.
“With Covid, everyone’s done very well to keep the game going and running – it’s not like rugby is a massive money earning sport.
“I think it was only fair that those who’ve invested this year are not overly penalised going into next year.”
Currently eighth in the Premiership table, following last Saturday’s 26-3 loss at reigning champions Exeter Chiefs, Kidney’s Exiles are 12 points clear of Gloucester, who prop up the league.
Irish remain just six points off the play-offs, and in contention for Champions Cup rugby next year.
Due to the severe financial challenges being faced by Premiership clubs due to Covid-19, and with a points-based system used to decide five matches cancelled because of coronavirus outbreaks, relegation was seen as unfair.
Full details | RFU Council approve moratorium on relegation from Gallagher Premiership Rugby for 2020-21 season and a review of minimum standards for future seasons https://t.co/KwKDGlRKLf
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) February 12, 2021
Darren Childs, Chief-Executive of Premiership Rugby said: “We welcome today’s decision and thank the RFU Council members for their support. The priority for everyone involved has been to protect the long-term sustainability and success of English professional rugby for the fans and clubs who have endured huge financial and sporting challenges throughout the last two seasons.
“The progress being made collaboratively with all our key stakeholders across the sport has been fantastic. Our focus remains on continuing to strengthen that alignment through transparency and dialogue around the long-term success of the game at a domestic and national level in England.”
The Championship season gets underway on 6 March, with some of the 12 clubs having already withdrawn due to funding issues.
Saracens will be favourites to gain promotion back to the Premiership, but will be pushed hard by Ealing Trailfinders.