Last week Simon Halliday wrote an article about the state of European Cup rugby and where we go from here. The article received some interesting and measured responses which we wanted to share. You can read the original article here.
“First of all, I disagree with your comment about amateur administrators. Who created and developed this great competition that the professional administrators want to take-over? Hardly surprising that they sit and ring their hands when no one has seen the details of the BT deal for some reason for starters. It shouldn’t be ignored that most of the privately owned clubs are losing money hand over fist and their solution to this is to put the Celts & Italians out of business. They have to be stopped before they destroy rugby.”
David Lyttle wrote:
“Simon you appear to have swallowed the PR blurb of the the PRL. The self styled top English clubs believe that they have a right to more money due to their inability to manage their own finances. PRL totters from crisis to crisis at it seeks to prevent Championship teams stepping up and displacing the groundless and penniless grandees. Viewing rights have been tossed from ESPN to Sky and now BT because no-one really cares about it. BT need PRL to fill a schedule hole – when will they drop it?
The Celtic League is not a club league but a (mainly) provincial unions league. The remaining six nations unions use the Celtic league to develop home talent to step up to internationals – for that reason they won’t face financial oblivion.
The RFU needs to seize control of their game before the PRL clowns destroy it."
John F Brown wrote:
“Simon, this is all about greed by the English Premiership. The Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh Rugby Unions should give the English what they want. Give the Premiership meritocracy in qualification they demand, by nominating their National Leagues as qualifying competitions; 3 per league and reduce the numbers to 20 as required by English Premiership. I am not sure where the 20th team comes from assuming the 19th is last years champions. Money to be split evenly between all leagues (teams). Therefore English Premiership gets what they want; meritocracy in qualification, even distribution of finance and reduced teams qualifying. The Rabo continues as is, as does the Premiership and Top 14 in France. Yes there would be mismatches to begin with and the Rabo teams could decide whether they would wish to draft their players to their respective qualifiers. Just answer this question please Simon. How long do you think Bath and the other 8 teams that will never qualify for the European competition sit back and accept the loss of European monies?”
Jeff Gage wrote:
“1) Premier Rugby argues that the qualification system for Europe is flawed and unfair, with Premiership clubs (who represent nobody but themselves) having an 8-month slog trying to qualify, whereas the likes of Leinster (who represent all their constituent clubs) are more or less guaranteed entry. England currently has to enter individual clubs sides because the RFU has allowed any meaningful domestic rep stage to wither away. That is England’s choice. Premier Rugby cannot complain about the means by which other countries choose their European entries.
2) Premier Rugby argues that entry to the main European Cup must be totally on merit. If that were the case, there would almost certainly be no Italian teams in it at present. If, say, one Italian team was always guaranteed a place, that might be at the expense of a higher-placed team in the Rabo, or at the expense of an obviously better team in France or England. In which case Premier Rugby’s ‘merit’ point falls down. Once a cross-border European competition exists, there must be a guaranteed number of places for each nation. NZ and S Africa might take issue with Australia having five Super 15 teams, but creating new teams in, eg, traditionally non-rugby areas like Perth and Melbourne is a vital means of spreading rugby more widely. Premier Rugby’s proposals would have precisely the opposite effect on rugby in a country such as Italy.
3) Premier Rugby holds English rugby, and European rugby at large, to ransom by arrogantly assuming that if they withdraw from Europe – for the third time in 18 years – England would have no teams to take their places. That arrogance is currently well-founded. Having allowed any proper domestic rep stage to almost die, the RFU has evolved a structure in which the only teams to replace Premiership clubs would be the likes of Championship clubs Cornish Pirates and Leeds. Pitting those sides against eg Munster would be a mismatch. Yet the home counties of those two clubs, given a proper dlomestic competition to play in, could eventually hold their own in such company. Yorkshire has more clubs than Munster, in fact probably more clubs than any other constituent body in world rugby. Cornwall is rugby-mad to the extent that 20 years ago, when county rugby still had some meaning, it took over 50,000 followers to a county final, with regular five-figure crowds watching them in earlier rounds. With county rugby allowed to die – largely because of the big clubs lack of support, the biggest crowds in Cornwall are now the couple of thousand who watch the Pirates. Not surprisingly, other clubs in Cornwall don’t support the Pirates; they compete in the same league pyramid.That 50,000 has vanished into thin air.
4) Premier Rugby was quoted this week in the UK’s Daily Telegraph as saying that cutting numbers from 24 to 20 would raise the standard of the 2nd tier competition. Everyone knows that cutting numbers simply means dividing the financial cake among fewer teams. Precisely Premier Rugby’s aim.
5) Premier Rugby’s track record shows it acts totally out of self-interest. It puts major and unjustified obstacles in the way of ambitious clubs trying to join it, as London Welsh found out 2 seasons ago. It has totally isolated its players from first-hand contact with players outside the Premiership – even full-timers in the Championship – while allowing its clubs to play against Spanish and Romanian part-timers in the Amlin Cup.
6) The principle of a single administrative body for the whole game is not wrong, as shown by eg NZ and Ireland. England’s RFU has shown gross incompetence in granting a small clique of clubs too much influence. Hence the costant problems with those clubs. When the game went open in 1995, the RFU made great play about having a ‘seamless’ game. That seems to have happened in NZ where All Blacks are often seen in ITM Cup games playing with and against part-timers. In England there is not so much a seam as a great chasm betweem Premier Rugby and the other 99% of the English game.
7) After one of its members tried to cheat its way to a European final 4 years ago, one would have expected Premier Rugby to wait rather longer before trying to rock the boat. …………………………………. The Future of European Rugby. The basis is still there for a successful event under ERC, but (a) that body should encourage unions to enter only combined teams such as Ulster and Yorkshire which represent all the clubs in those areas and (b) it should examine ways in whch emerging rugby nations can ‘join the party’ without seeing the mismatches sometimes seen in the Amlin Cup as currently formatted."
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