REUTERS: Premiership Rugby will be expanded to 14 teams in the 2022-23 season after a Rugby Football Union (RFU) Council voted to temporarily pause relegation in a bid to improve the financial situation of clubs hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vote was conducted to improve the financial stability and sustainability of professional rugby during the next three seasons and involved stakeholders which included Premiership Rugby, its clubs and the second-tier Championship clubs.
The 2021-22 season will have 13 teams with no relegation at the end of the campaign and the Championship winners will be promoted. There will be no relegation or promotion in the 2022-23 season.
The 2023-24 season will have a playoff between the Championship winners and the club finishing bottom of the Premiership to decide who plays in the top flight the following season.
"The plan will create a stable platform for the professional game so that clubs can reset and rebuild after the unprecedented financial pressures of COVID," Nigel Melville, chairman of the Premiership Rugby Investor Board, said on Tuesday.
"With an agreed structure and expansion plan in place for the next three seasons, we can now focus on creating a more sustainable future, developing our talented home-grown players and bringing an attractive, competitive league to fans."
Harlequins were crowned Premiership champions for the first time in nine years when they beat holders Exeter 40-38 in a tense final at Twickenham on Saturday.
"After one of the most dramatic ends to a season in Premiership history, we are already looking ahead to the return of Saracens next season and to welcoming a 14th club to the league in a year's time," Melville added.
Saracens, four-times Premiership champions and three-times European Cup winners in the last five years, were relegated last season as a punishment for multiple salary cap breaches.
They secured a return to the top flight by crushing Ealing Trailfinders in the two-legged Championship playoff final this month.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)