Ring fenc­ing has ben­e­fits It would bring sta­bil­ity, says Ack­er­mann

Gloucestershire Echo - - DEAC'S WEEK -

Glouces­ter head coach Jo­han Ack­er­mann be­lieves that there would be clear ben­e­fits if rel­e­ga­tion from the Premier­ship was scrapped.

The de­bate over ring-fenc­ing has resur­faced this week after re­ports that Premier­ship clubs are push­ing for a 13-team league of the cur­rent 12 clubs plus Cham­pi­onship lead­ers Lon­don Ir­ish, al­though the pos­si­bil­ity that there will be no team go­ing down this sea­son has been dis­missed.

Ack­er­mann ex­pe­ri­enced rel­e­ga­tion with the Lions in Su­per Rugby in 2012 when he was for­wards coach be­fore tak­ing over as head coach and lead­ing them back into the south­ern hemi­sphere’s premier com­pe­ti­tion the fol­low­ing year after a pro­mo­tion-rel­e­ga­tion play-off match with the South­ern Kings.

And he feels that once the pos­si­bil­ity of rel­e­ga­tion was taken away it helped bring sta­bil­ity to the en­vi­ron­ment that helped the Lions grow on and off the pitch.

“We could get no-name play­ers but at least we could prom­ise them Su­per Rugby,” Ack­er­mann said.

“In 2013, a lot of spon­sors left us. In 2014, we played with no spon­sors on our jer­seys.

“But when they saw we started per­form­ing with a very young group, it was not an easy sell, it was still a dif­fi­cult sell to get big names on board, but it was a start­ing point for the mar­ket­ing depart­ment and the CEO to go to busi­nesses and say: ‘Lis­ten, we have a young team. If you sign now with us, you can grow with us and we can prom­ise you Su­per Rugby for three or four years.’

“Emi­rates signed a five-year deal way cheaper than any other spon­sor and they got two Su­per Rugby fi­nals later. There are ben­e­fits to hav­ing no rel­e­ga­tion and you can al­most plan a bit ahead.

“Any player wants to know ‘do I fit into a squad and am I go­ing to play at the top level of the com­pe­ti­tion so it’s an easy sell if you play Su­per Rugby to get play­ers.”

Ack­er­mann felt the cer­tainty helped him de­velop play­ers and a style of play that saw the Lions reach back-to-back fi­nals be­fore he joined Glouces­ter.

“It gave us that free­dom with a chance to de­velop stuff,” he said.

“Let’s say if a new side comes up (to the Premier­ship) now and they have a new squad. They would get away with it for one or two sea­sons to de­velop stuff but later on you can’t use that as an ex­cuse.

“You have to show progress, even if you are still a young squad com­pared to the likes of Sara­cens or Ex­eter who have been to­gether for a long time. It does give you, as a new coach­ing staff or a new squad of play­ers, a year or two to de­velop.”

Glouces­ter are not one of the teams look­ing in dan­ger of rel­e­ga­tion this sea­son as they sit third in the Premier­ship but just four points sep­a­rate six­th­placed Bath and bot­tom club New­cas­tle with the prospect that a big name could drop out of the league.

Ack­er­mann said: “Only the RFU will know what the as­pi­ra­tions for the clubs be­low (the Premier­ship) are.

“If it is quite clear and ob­vi­ous that 13 will be the num­ber, that no­body else has the as­pi­ra­tions (to come up from the Cham­pi­onship), then it’s prob­a­bly an easy thing to do.

“It will take a lot of pres­sure off the bot­tom teams and it will maybe bring a con­sis­tency in their squads as they can set­tle into a squad that can be com­pet­i­tive go­ing for­ward.

“It’s a tough thing if you’re at the bot­tom and you know there are only one or two small mar­gins why you landed there.

“There’s a lot of rugby left so we just fo­cus on our­selves and make sure we’re not in that po­si­tion but who­ever it’s go­ing to be, it’s go­ing to be a tough call to make.”

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