November 27, 2023


English rugby has found itself mired in financial and administrative troubles, prompting the establishment of a new sporting commission by Premiership Rugby. Comprising influential figures from the realms of sport and business, including former England and Northampton captain Tom Wood, this seven-person panel is set to chart a course towards long-term prosperity for the league. With the ability to make independent decisions regarding key matters such as the season structure, player workload, and regulations, the commission aims to bring stability and collective success to English rugby.

The Need for Change:

The recently concluded season has been a cause for concern in English rugby, witnessing the financial collapse of three Premiership clubs within a span of nine months. As the Rugby Football Union prepares to hold its AGM, the sport’s governing body faces broader disquiet on several fronts, including financial uncertainties and miscommunication regarding the tackle-height trial in grassroots rugby.

The Commission’s Composition:

Led by Nigel Melville, the sporting commission boasts a diverse set of members. Alongside Tom Wood, who brings invaluable experience from his playing career, the panel includes football executive Jane Purdon, Ministry of Justice board member Mark Rawlinson, and financial services expert Carys Williams. Completing the list are Premiership Rugby’s chief executive, Simon Massie-Taylor, and rugby director, Phil Winstanley. This blend of expertise from the sporting and business spheres positions the commission well to address the challenges at hand.

Goals and Powers:

The newly formed commission aims to bolster governance and enhance decision-making agility within Premiership Rugby. By taking on independent decision-making authority, the panel seeks to resolve contentious issues with impartiality and drive the best outcomes for the league as a whole. Key areas of focus include the future season structure, Premiership Rugby regulations, player workload, and the ability to impose sanctions when necessary.

Securing the Future:

Central to the concerns surrounding English rugby is the stability of the Championship, the second-tier professional league. Frustration has mounted due to a lack of additional funding from the league’s central pot, leaving clubs apprehensive about their future. Urgent answers are needed to address the involvement and financial viability of second-tier professional clubs, as the risk of further financial collapses looms. Without prompt action, these clubs face a perilous future, echoing the fate suffered by three Premiership sides in recent months.

Impact on Player Transfers:

The ramifications of financial instability have already manifested, as London Irish’s collapse into administration prompted a series of player transfers. Highly regarded flanker Tom Pearson has confirmed his move to Northampton, joining the ranks of those seeking stability. Chunya Munga, another player from the former Exiles squad, has already joined the Saints, while young center Will Joseph is set to join Harlequins. These transfers highlight the ripple effect of financial crises on player careers and the urgency for structural improvements in the English rugby ecosystem.

Italy’s Coaching Change:

In a separate development, Italy has decided not to renew the contract of head coach Kieran Crowley beyond the upcoming World Cup. Despite his successful tenure, which saw Italy achieve notable victories over Australia and Wales, Crowley’s contract will not be extended. This decision adds to the intrigue surrounding international rugby and the impact of coaching changes on team dynamics.


With the establishment of the sporting commission, English rugby is taking proactive measures to rectify its financial and administrative woes. By assembling a panel of experienced individuals from sports and business backgrounds, Premiership Rugby aims to steer the league towards long-term prosperity. Addressing critical issues such as governance, regulations, and player workload, the commission aims to achieve collective success and secure the future of English rugby. The sport’s stakeholders eagerly anticipate the commission’s decisions and the potential positive transformation they could bring to the sport.

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