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Premiership debates relegation ban

Aviva Premiership bosses will hold "a positive debate" over increasing the league to 14 teams and imposing a temporary moratorium on promotion and relegation.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has confirmed that the English club body is "looking at" adding two teams to the top-flight domestic league.

Premiership Rugby completed a record four-year television rights deal extension with BT Sport on Monday, cementing broadcasting plans until 2021.

Chief executive McCafferty believes the lucrative new deal indicates English rugby's rapid growth, underscoring moves towards expanding the Premiership.

McCafferty confirmed Premiership Rugby will hold talks with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) over tentative plans to "expand the league carefully over two or three years without relegation".

"We are looking at that," McCafferty told Press Association Sport.

"The game is growing significantly, and that rate of growth is such that we are looking at plans for expansion on a number of fronts.

"The size and competition of the league is one of them.

"We think it might be possible to develop the league in a way that includes one or two more clubs in terms of the competition.

"We know there are sensitivities around that but it's also the case that the expansion of the league, the inclusion of one or two more teams in that, and ultimately in time maybe even more teams, is a basis for again putting strength into the English game.

"Those plans are being looked at correctly, and we would only do it if it's right for the English game."

Premiership Rugby signed a £152million four-year deal with BT Sport in 2012, with this new contract extension securing a significant increase on those terms.

McCafferty would only describe the extension as "a very good deal", allowing Premiership bosses the power to plan with certainty for the next six years.

The Premiership chief believes expanding the league to capitalise on lucrative sponsorship and commercial deals could also boost the performance of the England team.

The Premiership clubs and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) are already renegotiating the heads of agreement deal that covers releasing players for international matches.

McCafferty confirmed league expansion and temporarily suspending promotion and relegation would feature in those talks.

"There's no definitive time scale in place, but it's very much on the agenda for discussions at the moment," said McCafferty of league expansion.

"We're in discussions with the RFU about agreement between the union and the clubs, so no doubt it will form part of those discussions.

"I think there's little doubt now that you need time to prepare to be a Premiership club, to be competitive on all fronts, both on and off the field.

"And therefore one of the more attractive ideas that has been mooted in the past is that perhaps there is a period of time during which there is no relegation, and that we expand the league carefully over two or three years without relegation.

"That allows clubs then to really make the investment on and off the pitch which is going to give them the best possible chance to be competitive.

"So we are looking at the possibility of ways in which you might create that time, to invest properly.

"All of this, including the extended deal with BT and the money that brings into the club game, all of that will help without a shadow of a doubt the performance of the national team.

"And that will not only be in the short term but in the medium term, through this World Cup and into Japan in 2019.

"At the basic level we've invested extensively in the academies, and that has helped significantly towards England winning back-to-back Junior World Cups.

"That is probably the strongest evidence of the conveyor belt of English talent continuing to come through the clubs and ultimately providing the senior England team with increasing depth of choice in player selection."

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