Guinness Premiership

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2006-07 Guinness Premiership
Guinness Premiership
Image:Guinness Premiership.gif
Sport Rugby union
Founded 1987
No. of teams 12
Country Image:Flag of England (bordered).svg England
Current champions Sale Sharks

The Guinness Premiership is the present name for the leading rugby union league competition for English clubs. It has had the following sponsorship names in the past:


[edit] History

The governing body of rugby union in England, Rugby Football Union, long resisted leagues as they believed that they would increase 'dirty' play and put pressure on clubs to pay their players (thus breaking the amateur ethos). Instead clubs arranged their own friendlies and had traditional games. The only organised tournaments were the County Cups and County Championship - the former played by clubs and the latter by the Counties within England. The Daily Telegraph and a few local newspapers - such as the Yorkshire Post compiled 'pennants' based on teams performances but as the strength of fixture list varied, it was at best an estimate of a teams performance throughout a season.

In 1972 the RFU sanctioned a national knock-out cup now known as the EDF Energy Cup and this was followed first by regional merit tables and then in the mid 1980s by national merit tables. One of the casualties of the move to competitive leagues was the loss of traditional games as the new fixture lists did not allow enough time for them.

The league evolved over time since starting in 1987 when the Courage Leagues were formed, a league pyramid that had more than 1000 clubs playing in 108 leagues; each with promotion and relegation.

In the first season, clubs were expected to arrange the fixtures on mutually convenient dates. That first season was an unqualified success, with clubs in the upper echelons of the national leagues reporting increased crowds, interest from both local backers and national companies and higher skill levels among players exposed to regular competition. The fears that a league would lead to greater violence on the field proved largely unfounded.

By the next season the RFU allocated fixed Saturdays to the league season, removing the clubs' responsibility for scheduling matches. There was no home and away structure to the leagues in those early seasons sides played one another once only.

Initially two teams, Bath and Leicester proved to be head and shoulders above anyone else in the Courage League, and between them dominated the top of the table.

In 1994 the league structure expanded to include a full rota of home and away matches for the first time. The 1994/1995 season was the first to be shown live on Sky Sports, a relationship which continues today.

The league turned professional for the 1996/97 season when the first winners were Wasps RFC, now known as London Wasps, who were the only other side to be crowned champions in the first ten years. Clubs like Saracens, Newcastle and Northampton were lucky enough to attract benefactors but the professional era also had its casualties as clubs like Richmond and London Scottish were forced into administration when their backers pulled out.

The re-branding of the league to the Zurich Championship at the start 2000/01 season also brought with it a re-vamping of the season structure. In 2000–2001 an 8-team play-off system was implemented, but the regular season champion was still considered English champion ("Zurich Premiership title") with the playoff champion claiming the "Zurich Championship title".

In the 2001–2002 season a controversial knock-out cup style play-off system was introduced. Halfway through the season, with Leicester odds-on to win their fourth title in succession, the league decided that the winners of the playoffs would be crowned champions. There was an outcry from fans and this proposal was dropped, but the next year a similar proposal was adopted under which the winner of the league had to play the winner of a match between the second- and third-placed teams for the title. Although Gloucester won the league by a clear margin, second-placed Wasps (who had defeated third-placed Northampton) beat them easily in the play-offs.

Since the implementation of the playoff system, only two teams have won both the regular season and playoffs in the same year—Leicester in 2000–2001 (the first year of the playoffs) and Sale Sharks in 2005–06.

From 2002–2003 season the English Champion team has been the one winning the Championship Final. For the past three seasons London Wasps have played the competition format to perfection, peaking at the right time to be crowned English Champions in 2003, 2004 and 2005. The eight-team play off format was also scrapped in favour of one similar to that used across Europe.

[edit] Finances

Clubs in the Guinness Premiership are allocated a £2.25m wage bill to pay their players in a season. This cap was raised from £2m in 2004-05, but many argue it should be higher. The RFU pay clubs £30,000 compensation a year per England player on the understanding they are released for international duty. The trouble is, it is hard to replace players of such calibre with £30,000. It means many clubs are forced to play large chunks of the season without their best players.

Debate rages over whether promotion and relegation should exist. Benefactors of Premiership clubs are reluctant, in some cases, to add further investment with the fear of relegation looming. Some believe removing that uncertainty would enable more investment, allowing the sport to grow.

In 2005/06 total attendances were 1,355,820, giving an average of 10,271 over 132 games. [1] This was substantially higher than a few years earlier; in 2001/02 the average was 7,490. [2]

[edit] Teams

The following twelve teams will play in the league during the 2006-07 season:

Harlequins earned promotion from National Division One at the first opportunity (they had been relegated for the 2005-06 premiership), while Leeds Tykes were relegated to National Division One for the 2006-07 season.

[edit] Winners

[edit] By year

[edit] Courage League

[edit] Allied Dunbar Premiership

[edit] Zurich Premiership

[edit] Guinness Premiership

[edit] Zurich Premiership Championship Final

on all occasions at Twickenham Stadium

* 13 May 2001Leicester - Bath 22-10 (33,500)
*8 June 2002Leicester -Gloucester 28-23 (28,500)
*31 May 2003London Wasps -Gloucester 39-3 (42,000)
*29 May 2004London Wasps -Bath 10-6 (59,500)
*14 May 2005London Wasps -Leicester Tigers 39-14 (66,000)

[edit] Guinness Premiership Championship Final

on all occasions at Twickenham Stadium

*27 May 2006Sale Sharks -Leicester Tigers 45-20 (58,000)

[edit] By Championship Total Wins

Ranking Team Times won
1= Leicester Tigers 6
Bath 6
3 London Wasps/Wasps RFC/Wasps FC 5
4= Newcastle Falcons 1
Sale Sharks 1

[edit] See also

  • Jason White - winner of the Premiership's Players' Player of the Year award on 2006

[edit] External links

de:Guinness Premiership

fr:Championnat d'Angleterre de rugby à XV it:Campionato inglese di rugby ja:プレミアシップ (ラグビー) no:Guinness Premiership sv:Guinness Premiership

Guinness Premiership

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