The RFU will launch a new competition to replace the current Women’s Premiership from next season.
Having been ratified by the RFU Council last week, the intention is that the new competition will help England to become the dominant force in international women’s rugby with a higher quality standard of top level club competition.
Entry into the new competition is open to any club who can fulfil minimum operating standards, with up to a maximum of 10 clubs in the first instance. The Premiership currently has eight competitors and given the likelihood of all of those teams applying, the new "Super League" will effectively see teams probably bidding for the two new spots. While there is no early indication of teams who might be willing to invest to meet the minimum standards (which are yet to be confirmed), teams who might consider themselves of the relevant standard already include Waterloo, Thurrock and Trojans - the leading Championship teams. There is also the possibility that a new franchise could be established.
The news is the latest in a series of positive steps for the women's Premiership as numerous sides continue to align with men's professional set-ups. Worcester have rebranded as the Worcester Valkayries after their tie-up; Saracens play all their games at Allianz Park; Wasps have hired Giselle Mather to be their fulltime Director of Rugby; Aylesford have merged with Harlequins and Bristol and Lichfield continue to benefit from links to professional sides.
The RFU believe the new competition should be viewed as new and distinct from the current Women’s Premiership competition, to underline the step-change that is taking place. It will be branded differently to show the move forward and the difference from the men’s Premiership.
The RFU are inviting formal expressions of interest from all interested parties by 11 November. Application packs will be circulated 14 November to those parties who have completed expression of interest forms. The deadline for application will be 6 January 2017.
The move to create a top league in this manner replicates other attempts in other women’s codes in recent years .In 2013 the FA attracted controversy when it created a Women’s Super League – choosing Manchester City over established side Doncaster Belles when it opened up the process to new sides .