Rotherham Titans have today been told they can take their place in next season’s Aviva Premiership should they clinch promotion through the Championship play-offs.
The Professional Game Board has confirmed that - along with Leeds, Bristol and London Welsh - the South Yorkshire club meet their minimum standards criteria for entry into the top flight, because they will play their home games at Barnsley’s Oakwell stadium and not their traditional home of Clifton Lane.
The news will come as a great boost ahead of tomorrow’s promotion play-off semi-final first leg at favourites Bristol.
Should Rotherham continue their remarkable season by overcoming Bristol over two legs and then Leeds Carnegie or London Welsh in the two-legged final, only Rugby Football Union ratification of the PGB recommendation would stand in their way.
Promotion to the Premiership has never been a black and white issue, with Rotherham famously being denied entry in 2002 despite winning the second tier, as Clifton Lane did not meet the criteria.
London Welsh had to win a legal battle before their promotion was confirmed two seasons ago.
But Rotherham, by nominating Oakwell as their ‘home’ ground next season, have adhered to the criteria regarding facilities and capacity and received approval from the Game board today and the RFU at a later date.
Titans’ chairman Nick Cragg said: “As far as we are aware we can go up. Everything has been approved and everything is in place.”
A statement from the RFU board of directors read: “The Rugby Football Union (RFU) Board of Directors have considered the findings of the independent audit report carried out by CSM in relation to Greene King IPA Championship semi-finalists Bristol Rugby, Leeds Carnegie, London Welsh, and Rotherham Titans and their eligibility for promotion to the Aviva Premiership, in line with the Minimum Standards Criteria (MSC).
“The RFU Board has confirmed that all four clubs have satisfied the Minimum Standards Criteria for entry into the Aviva Premiership, based on the following stadia: Ashton Gate (Bristol Rugby), Headingley Carnegie Stadium (Leeds Carnegie), Kassam Stadium (London Welsh) and Oakwell Stadium (Rotherham Titans).
“The Minimum Standards Criteria are set by the Professional Game Board (PGB) - a joint group from the RFU, Premiership Rugby, Greene King IPA Championship clubs and the Rugby Players’ Association. They are designed to ensure high standards across the Premiership are maintained both on and off the field.
“It covers many elements, which relate to the quality of experience and crucially, health and safety for players and spectators. The Minimum Standards Criteria for the Premiership have been in place since 2001.”
Promotion for either Rotherham or Leeds would result in a £1m increase in central funding.
This sum is tiny in comparison to the equivalent achievement in football, a play-off final that is said to be worth £90m to the winner.
But Cragg, whose club’s current budget is dwarfed by their promotion rivals, said: “There’s no real financial incentive, it’s about pride for us.”