Premiership to move 2025 final and accommodate Lions tour in historic first
The British and Irish Lions and Premiership Rugby have reached a historic agreement that should bring to an end decades of pre-tour antagonism and conflict over player release, funding and fixture clashes, Telegraph can reveal.
The landmark deal is understood to include a number of key compromises that should ensure that the next Lions head coach will be given “the best possible chance” for the tour in Australia in 2025.
The standout details of the deal include:
- Premiership Rugby to bring forward their final by one week in the 2024-25 season having previously vehemently resisted calls to do so
- Shifting the final will guarantee that the Lions will be able to reclaim at least one match for their schedule that was cut from 10 games to eight at the San Francisco global calendar agreement in 2017 when the tourists were not properly represented in the talks
- The Lions head coach will be able to play a pre-tour warm-up match, in the UK or Ireland or overseas en route to Australia, with a full squad
- All England-based players selected to be able to attend all Lions functions, including pre-tour get-togethers such as the traditional ‘Messy Monday’ logistics day
- The Lions have agreed to a landmark commercial deal to share a portion of revenues generated by the tour with the clubs – and players (on top of a tour fee) – for the first time.
- The Lions have also agreed to engage with Premiership clubs during the 2024-25 season by staging events with current and former Lions players and help to market their final by promoting players and clubs.
- The URC, which is part-owned by the Irish, Scottish and Welsh unions, are also expected to move their final, as they did before the 2021 tour of South Africa
- Mandatory rest periods agreed for players returning to their clubs at the start of the new season
“This is one of the most important deals since the game turned professional as it will end all the friction and tension between the Lions and the Premiership clubs that have previously always boiled over just before the tour is due to depart,” said one senior source.
“The Lions is the biggest brand in world rugby, it is something everyone should celebrate and get behind and now we have an agreement, everyone will be able to do so.
“A successful Lions tour and brand is good for the Premiership clubs too and now both parties are able to work together, there is more incentive to make it really work. The (club) owners love the Lions too.”
Another source said: “It just shows what rugby can achieve when we work together. It has been a tough year for the sport, but this is fantastic news. It shows what can be done with dialogue, common purpose for rugby and collaboration. Everyone can go and enjoy the tour now.”
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