Ollie Phillips: Greater clarity is needed on plans for an elongated domestic season

 
Ollie Phillips
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Billy Vunipola has suggested that strike action is a possibility if plans for an elongated domestic season persist (Source: Getty)

I wouldn't support a strike if I was in the position of Billy Vunipola, Ben Youngs, Joe Marler, who have all suggested that industrial action might be an option if plans for an elongated domestic season persist.

That, however, is mainly due to just loving rugby and by striking you are depriving yourself of the thing you love doing the most. A strike would be detrimental to everyone and is not the desired outcome.

The umbrella organisation for the 12 Premiership clubs is pushing for a 10-month domestic season from September to June as part of negotiations for the new global calendar, which is to take effect from August 2020.

The goal is to find a balance between generating more revenue and aligning to a fresh calendar which maximises big matches so there is an increase in commercial value.

With that, and all such initiatives, there comes pain at the adjustment point. I can see the argument from both sides on the benefits of having a longer domestic season and clubs not competing as much with international games.

As I have written previously, though, it would be foolish to whittle down the Six Nations and have England playing five international matches in as many weeks to facilitate such a move.

The impact of an international clash on the body is comparable to a reasonably-sized car crash, so a truncated Six Nations would be asking for trouble.

An argument put forward in favour of a longer domestic season is an easing of the physical impact upon players, although there are views to contrary. And what about the increased mental pressure? I’m not sure that has been taken into consideration.

It is absolutely draining to be constantly thinking about who you are playing next week, who your opponent is and how you are going to combat them.

There needs to be a lot more clarity about the proposals. Will, for instance, two months of a 10-month campaign be set aside for the Anglo-Welsh Cup during which academy graduates would play and international stars and first-team regulars could be rested? That would help.

There are also other considerations if a longer season was to come into play, principally the salary cap, which currently stands at £7m.

If the powers that be are demanding more from players then clubs are going to have to have access to greater resources and more freedom to grow squads.

Some clubs are already at breaking point, as we have seen from the glut of injuries during the opening rounds of the Premiership season, and with no increase in salary cap it is only going to be exacerbated. It cannot all be take, take, take – there has to be some give.

There needs to be a better financial offering to clubs, more band width in terms of wages and more support from the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby, whoever it may be, if this proposal is going to get off the ground.

Ollie Phillips is a former England Sevens captain and now a director at PwC, focusing on organisational, cultural and technological change.@OlliePhillips11

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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