Elite clubs cast doubt over future of Premiership chief Darren Childs as they draw up a shortlist of ‘heavyweight’ rugby administrators to run PRL after turbulent year
- Childs succeeded Mark McCafferty as PRL chief executive last summer
- He has had to cope with Saracens salary cap saga followed by Covid shutdown
- Clubs have been dismayed at the lack of visible leadership from PRL hierarchy
English club rugby’s hierarchy is on the brink of profound upheaval, with Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs set to be marginalised after a turbulent year for the league.
Sportsmail understands that the elite clubs have been in talks about appointing a ‘rugby commissioner’ to act as the sporting figurehead for PRL, leaving Childs with a strictly commercial remit. Multiple sources have indicated that a shortlist of three or four ‘heavyweight’ rugby administrators has been drawn up.
All the indications are that the process is at an advanced stage. Months of controversy and financial turmoil have exposed glaring faultlines, with the Saracens salary cap saga followed by the Covid shutdown and its implications.
Premiership Rugby chief Darren Childs is set to be marginalised after a turbulent year
Childs succeeded the long-serving Mark McCafferty as PRL chief executive in summer 2019. He was lured from UKTV at the behest of CVC after the private equity firm bought a stake in the Premiership.
Childs was seen as someone who could build on the commercial development by McCafferty but his tenure has been unsettled and uncomfortable. Soon after taking charge, he was forced to cope with the fall-out from Saracens’ cap breaches, which were exposed by Sportsmail.
Childs ordered an independent inquiry by Lord Myners, which yielded a damning report earlier this year and a raft of proposed reforms which the clubs accepted.
Then Childs was plunged into crisis mode again as the pandemic caused the suspension of all professional sport. He boldly declared that rugby would be the ‘first sport back on TV’ after the lock-down but his optimism proved unfounded as the season did not resume until mid-August.
The Premiership chief was forced to cope with the fall-out from Saracens’ cap breaches
While the vast majority of fixtures took place, there was further trouble when Sale were forced out of the title race by a Covid outbreak — and widespread derision when it emerged that Bristol were on standby for the final due to positive cases at Wasps. No sooner had the showpiece taken place than PRL were under fire again, this time from the Lions for refusing to release English players for the Test against Japan ahead of next summer’s tour of South Africa.
Amid all the dramas, clubs have privately expressed dismay at the lack of strong, visible leadership and clarity from the PRL hierarchy as Childs has maintained a low profile with a drive to maintain secrecy, despite claims of transparency. Against this backdrop, clubs appear to have decided that they need a respected rugby figurehead, with the clout, connections and credibility to represent their interests properly.
As Sportsmail reported on Wednesday, Childs is currently negotiating a new TV rights deal and facing the prospect of BT Sport demanding a rebate, if clubs push ahead with plans to ring-fence the league.
His status appears likely to be diminished, leading to doubts about his future at PRL.