FORMER Worcester Warriors hooker Chris Fortey has urged rugby chiefs to bring an end to the long-running debate over ring-fencing the Gallagher Premiership.

Fortey feels speculation over the future league structure has created “uncertainty” amongst clubs in the top two tiers and insisted: “It has got to be sorted out.”

The 43-year-old, who made 155 appearances for Warriors between 2005 and 2012, also reckons expanding the Premiership from 12 to 14 teams with no relegation for three years could be a “sensible” option as loss-making top-flight clubs seek “stability”.

But he stressed the importance of striking the right balance and ensuring the interests of Championship clubs will be at the “heart” of any decision.

During his 16-year professional career Fortey experienced the devastation of demotion from the Premiership with Warriors in 2010 only to come back up the next year.

He is currently working at Hartpury who are at the foot of the Championship, level on points with Richmond.

“I think there are pros and cons in both arguments,” said Fortey on the ring-fencing debate.

“To not have promotion and relegation would be tough on certain teams in the Championship.

“But from a money point of view it probably would be better to make the Premiership a 14-team proposition for stability which is what they are looking for.

“If we are sensible then maybe it should be ring-fenced for three years.

“But whatever they do they have got to do it with the interest of Championship rugby at heart.”

Reports emerged last month of top clubs in England threatening to form a breakaway league but Premiership Rugby owners are now understood to be pushing to hold talks with the Rugby Football Union over ending promotion and relegation.

Fortey, who also made his name at Gloucester, said it was “crazy” that the ring-fencing debate was still ongoing.

“I think the top-end clubs in the Championship can cope with the Premiership,” Fortey said.

“But it has got to be sorted out as we can’t go three-quarters of the way through the season and still have this uncertainty over what is happening.”

Since being formed in 2004 Hartpury have climbed from the 11th to second level of English rugby with Fortey captaining the Gloucestershire club to the National Two South title in 2014.

“As you know the Premiership is just so brutal so for me the level of the Championship is probably where Hartpury deserve to stay,” Fortey continued.

“The infrastructure and finances required to be in the Premiership are getting bigger and bigger so it would be a big ask.

“You would never say no to achieving that but the Championship is a great level and it’s a good draw for the boys that are playing in the BUCS team.”

Warriors are hovering one place above the drop zone, just five points clear of bottom club Newcastle Falcons who finished fourth last season.

London Irish, who are one of the 13 clubs that have a share in the Premiership, are top of the Championship, nine points ahead of nearest rivals Ealing Trailfinders.

On the idea of making the Premiership a 14-team league, Fortey added: “I think it would work although it would be harsh on those who don’t get that 14th spot.

“I know Super Rugby is a different competition altogether but they seem to cope with it.

“I’ll leave it for the powers that be to decide as they get paid the big bucks and can make those decisions.”

The full interview with Fortey features on the 10th episode on the Worcester Warriors Podcast which is available to download from Soundcloud and iTunes.