NEWCASTLE Falcons boss Dean Richards believes the protracted nature of the Championship season makes planning for the Premiership a virtual mission impossible.
Halfway through the 22-game regular phase of the campaign, unbeaten Newcastle are already 12 points clear but must wait until the end of May to negotiate the lottery of the promotion play-offs.
The top-four sides over the course of the season enter into home-and-away semi-finals before a two-legged final decides which team climbs into the Premiership. The upshot is the winner falls way behind their rival clubs in signing up the top talent.
Richards said: “The way it is structured at the moment means you won’t know until May 29 whether or not you have been promoted and it means your recruitment is virtually impossible.”
Leaning heavily towards a return to the automatic promotion which saw his Harlequins side regaining top-flight status as regular-season winners in 2006, the director of rugby said: “Nobody knows where they are and for most rugby clubs their financial year will finish in April.
“By the beginning of April you have a reasonable understanding of where you will finish in the league.
“That would then give you a chance in the market to put a team together if you think you are going to go up automatically as champions.”
London Welsh were last season promoted via the play-offs despite ending the season in fourth, 14 points behind regular-season leaders Bristol.
Welsh are third-bottom of the top-flight table, but Richards added: “Everybody says London Welsh have done well with the current system but you can turn round and say the only reason for that is because two sides in Sale and London Irish have imploded. Had that not been the case then London Welsh would most likely be bottom of the pile and this play-off system just doesn’t make sense.”
Meanwhile, the Falcons have finally confirmed chief executive David Bell has left the club.
Bell, who had been with the Falcons for more than a decade, has been absent from Kingston Park for the last two months, with recently-appointed executive chairman Paul Varley taking over the day-to-day running of the club.