• 98% of those in favour of Premiership Rugby draft believe it would make the league more exciting
  • 65% of those in favour think a Premiership Rugby Draft Day would add another layer of entertainment to the league
  • Only 12% would not be in favour of Premiership Rugby draft, with 5% undecided
  • Data suggests that it is much easier for Premiership Rugby teams to maintain their high status and winning record than it is for NFL teams (since the 1995-96 season, no team has followed a Premiership winning campaign with 2 or more straight losing seasons. By comparison, the New York Giants won the 2012 Superbowl but have had 6 out of 7 losing seasons since then)

Rugby tickets company Liverugbytickets.co.uk have surveyed 1,200 Premiership Rugby supporters in order to determine whether fans are in favour of the league adopting an NFL-style draft in the coming years. What’s more, a data driven approach was taken in order to predict whether or not the switch would make the league more entertaining for fans by levelling the playing field even further (following the introduction of salary cap regulations in 1999).

Survey results:

In Favour of NFL-Style Draft – 83%

Not in Favour of NFL-Style Draft – 12%

Undecided – 5%

Each Premiership club was represented in the survey by 100 fans. The respondents overwhelmingly supported the introduction of an NFL-style draft in England’s top rugby union competition, with 83% saying they would be in favour of the change, 12% disagreeing with it, and 5% being unable to decide whether the move would be beneficial or detrimental to the competition.

Reasons for supporting NFL-style draft in Premiership Rugby:

Reason

% of respondents

It would make the league more exciting by giving lesser teams a better chance of competing for the championship

98%

Draft Day would add another layer of entertainment to the league

65%

Reasons for not supporting NFL-style draft in Premiership rugby:

Reason

% of respondents

It would be too difficult/costly to implement

86%

It would ruin the current youth system

58%

It would seem most Premiership Rugby fans are aware of how the NFL draft works and are attracted to the idea for all the right reasons.

98% agree that the league would become more exciting as a result. The rationale behind the draft is to increase the competitive parity between teams competing against each other. As teams with the worst records in the previous season are able to choose the best young recruits available, talent becomes more evenly distributed, bridging the gap between teams and adding to the overall level of entertainment which fans experience.

The NFL have cemented their draft day as a successful and attractive event in itself, with millions tuning in each year to see which players are added to their favourite teams’ rosters. With 65% of survey respondents agreeing that a Premiership Rugby draft day would add another layer of entertainment to the league, it shouldn’t be difficult for the premier English rugby league to turn the event into a commercial success.

Stats zone – Would a draft really improve the entertainment quality of the league?

In the 7 year period starting in 1987 (the year the Premiership was founded) and ending with the 1993-94 season (the last season before the salary cap rule was introduced in the Premiership), 3 teams won the rugby premiership; 4 NFL teams won the Superbowl in the same period.

Premiership Rugby made the switch to professionalism starting with the 1995-96 season. Since then, there have been 13 Superbowl champions compared to 8 Premiership champions. What’s more, the Premiership has seen Leicester crowned 6 times, and Wasps and Saracens winning the ultimate prize 5 times, with the next 5 teams on the list only boasting one championship each during this period. On the other hand, the NFL has seen the New England Patriots win the Superbowl 6 times, the Denver Broncos 3 times, and four other teams managing to win it twice (Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers), ahead of 7 one-time winners.

There have been 8 different Superbowl champions in the past 10 seasons, compared to just 5 different Premiership Rugby champions during the same period.

Since 1994-1995 24 teams have participated in England’s top rugby competition, with 9 having won the Premiership (37.5%). In the NFL, 15 of 32 teams have won (47%).

The data supports the idea that the draft system seems to make for a more level playing field, leading to higher chances of better teams falling off their pedestal and lesser ones rising to the top.

In order to illustrate the point further, we may take the example of the New York Giants. After having won the Superbowl in both 2008 and 2012, the Giants have had 6 out of 7 losing seasons, with their total win-loss ratio over the last three coming in at just 25%.

By comparison, since the 1995-96 season, only two teams followed Premiership Rugby winning runs with losing seasons (Wasps went 8-1-13 in 1997-98 after having won in 1996-97 and Sale Sharks followed their 2005-2006 title win with the same 8-1-13 record the next season). Furthermore, since 1995-96, no team has followed a Premiership winning campaign with 2 or more straight losing seasons.

(Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Harlequins)