The Head-Scratchingly Complex English Championship

With our interest piqued by the madcap last 10 minutes in the Worcester-Bedford (I know, doesn’t sound *that* interesting, but watch from 1:25:00 onwards in the video below), we started wondering about the structure of the English Championship.

Now, as our English friends will know, the criteria for getting into the Premiership are much stricter than those applying to teams already in the top tier – for example, Sale’s ground would not be of high enough quality for them to get promoted if they happened to go down.

So, there are a limited number of Championship teams who can actually get promoted. We are open to correction, but this season we believed it was only Worcester and Bristol. Of these, only Worcester reached the play-offs, along with Bedford, London Welsh and Cornish Pirates. If Worcester happen to trip up, there will be no promotion this year.

Pretty much like the Magners League then, only with more column inches.

Now, how did the afore-mentioned 4 teams make the play-offs, we hear you ask …

Well, lets see:

  1. 12 teams play each other twice (22 games)
  2. The top EIGHT (!) are split into 2 groups – teams carry forward some bonus points from the first stage, up to a maximum of 3, but a win in this stage is worth 4 points, so the points earned from stage 1 are strictly notional
  3. Each team plays home and away against the other teams in the group (6 games)
  4. Semi-final stage: First in one group plays second in the other

With us so far?

Now, in Stage 1, Worcester (with players of the “calibre” of Neil Best and Andy Goode) won 21 out of 22 games. In stage 2, they won 6 out of 6. In Stage 1, Bedford won 17 out of 22 and in Stage 2, they won 3 out of 6.

And Bedford came a botched drop goal away from putting out Worcester.

Aside: Last season, Bristol won every game, but bowed out in the (2-legged) final to Exeter.

So, here is what we are thinking:

  • You could win 30 matches and lose 1 and not win the Championship – if the one loss is in the 2 legged final, and means you lose on aggregate
  • Why not play the first 22 games to scrape into 8th place, hire a few Rent-a-Saffer’s, get into the Play-offs, hire some Rent-a-Kiwi’s, and ensure promotion?

Would anyone like to fill us in on how and why the Championship is structured as it is?

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