STRUGGLING clubs like London Welsh “need to be protected from themselves,” according to Worcester Warriors chief executive Jim O’Toole.

The Exiles have had a disastrous campaign since winning the Greene King IPA Championship play-offs last term and O’Toole believes the English Premiership should have a moratorium on promotion and relegation.

Rugby’s second tier was formerly managed by the clubs themselves, but came under the jurisdiction of the RFU when it was renamed as the Championship.

Only last week, a new five-year financial package between the RFU and the Championship was announced, indicating there is a power struggle over the future of the second tier.

Plans to expand the Premiership to 14 clubs have emerged with a temporary halt on relegation to allow those ‘new’ top-flight clubs to settle for two or three seasons.

O’Toole previously revealed he supports the idea of expanding the Aviva Premiership to 14 clubs from the start of the 2016-17 season.

The proposal, first mooted by Saracens, London Irish, Wasps and Bath, could include the scrapping of promotion and relegation from the top flight.

O’Toole said: “With the competition looking to expand to an elite 14 teams in England, my own view is it is a very good idea and part of a natural expansion as professional club rugby.

“As a sportsman, I think you need to have the opportunity to be promoted. But from a professional and business point of view, my stance is slightly difference.

“There are a lot of club who aspire to play in the Premiership.

Many clubs like us have aspirations to be in the Premiership but I think the RFU have a responsibility to protect clubs from themselves and London Welsh is a case in point.

“I think clubs in the Premiership should be given the security of moratorium for three or four years.”

London Welsh have lost all 27 of their matches this season and, with a points difference of minus 638, are set to become the worst performing top-flight club of all time.

Poor results and attendances of just 3,000 at Oxford’s Kassam Stadium have fallen badly short of expectations at Welsh.

The crisis club parted company with head coach Justin Burrell this week and, of course, one of their stars Carl Kirwan is joining Warriors for next season.

O’Toole said: “Financial support, developing the fan base and infrastructure are vital areas which teams in the Premiership need to demonstrate."