European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

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European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by Pot Hale on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 4:35 am

From Telegraph:

European rugby chiefs are calling for a radical restructuring of the domestic leagues as part of the negotiations over the new global calendar from 2019?

It is understood that plans under consideration would mean that the English and Pro 12 domestic fixture lists would be redrawn to ensure that the European Champions and Challenge Cups pool matches are played in one extended block during December and January.

The plans also include staging the quarter-finals of both European tournaments before the start of the Six Nations Championship to allow more than two months to market and sell tickets for the semi-finals, which have been problematic fixtures in recent seasons.

The pool matches of the Champions Cup, which get under way on Friday when two-time champions Leicester Tigers open their Pool One campaign against Glasgow Warriors at the Scotstoun Stadium, are currently played in a stop-start fashion over six weekends in October, December and January.

There follows a two-month wait for the quarter-finals in the final weekend of March, leaving the tournament organisers just three weeks to organise stadiums and sell tickets for the semi-finals, which will be held on the weekend starting April 21. In contrast, tickets are already on sale for Murrayfield on May 5.

The proposed shake-up is understood to have significant support within both the clubs and unions, who are both stakeholders of European Professional Club Rugby, the tournament’s organising company based in Neuchâtel in Switzerland.

Under the plans the domestic season would start in October, with four rounds of Premiership and Pro12 matches leading into the autumn Test series.

The six rounds of European pool matches would then be played in December and January, with the quarter-finals staged ahead of a Six Nations, which would be pushed back by a couple of weeks.

The Premiership and Pro12 season would then run to the end of the season without interruption apart from for those clubs involved in the European semi-finals and finals.

EPCR believes playing the pool games back-to-back would provide a more level playing field for competing teams, generate greater interest among supporters and make the European competitions more attractive to broadcasters.

Negotiations about the next broadcasting deal are expected to begin before the end of the year, with the current deal between BT Sport and Sky Sport due to expire at the end of next season.

Simon Halliday, the former England wing who is chairman of EPCR, told The Telegraph that restructuring the season to condense European and domestic action into separate blocks could have multiple benefits for both competitions.

“There is a strong desire to have longer blocks for domestic clubs to be able to get into one competition rather than dip in and dip out all the time,” Halliday said.

“It is perfectly logical. We need to have a tournament that allows brands to be built and the product – the quality of the rugby – to be outstanding for supporters.

“If we get longer blocks of time, that would work for us so people can get into the mindset of European rugby.

“It also would also allow us to be creative in staging back-to-back games and double-headers, the types of occasions that are currently going on in domestic rugby which are bringing crowds.

“If we could also get the quarter-final played before the beginning of the Six Nations then we would have a couple of months to advertise it, brand it, look at ways of doing that effectively, and then it would adopt its appropriate place in the calendar.

“The semi-final of the European Champions or Challenge Cup should be a big event, well marketed and well advertised, and then you would not have any issues of struggling to fill the stadium because you don’t have time to do it or it is in the wrong location.”

Halliday insists that change is also critical to improve the welfare of the players by avoiding the current situation where players involved in England’s Test match against Australia, outside the world rugby window for Test matches, could be involved in a critical European pool match the following weekend.

“We have to follow up our words with actions if we are going to properly safeguard the welfare of the players and the season-restructure is the opportunity to define it for players and not put them under this insane pressure to be moving from one quasi-international match to another with no appropriate rest,” Halliday added.

“Every competition will have to look at itself and try to avoid situations like Saracens have alluded to, when England have an international a week before a big European match. That makes it really difficult for clubs when they know half the squad is going to be very tired moving into a big game.

“We have got to acknowledge the importance of certain fixtures and it is very different for a European pool match versus a domestic game against the bottom team for example. We need to look at the strengths of the relative tournaments and make decisions around them – not just hammer them together.”

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by Recwatcher16 on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 7:52 am

Sounds very sensible from a club point of view. When the French first initiated a change to the euro comps they wanted these games as a block and finishing earlier in the season. That proposal got watered down to two blocks of three games and in the end the fixtures stayed the same.
This has clearly been revisited and the euro mngt. are getting in early whilst the Unions prevaricate on the global season and the balance of numbers of Test against potential loss of income.

Somewhat surprised the 6N Unions/leagues are allegedly agreeing on this, given Autumn internationals swiftly followed by 6/7 euro fixtures and then straight into 6N. Could be a case of last man standing for test players in the 6N and then subsequent league campaigns.

The euro management in Switzerland, which are now clearly distinct from the rest of the NH organisations cosily situated together, are clearly flexing to see what they can get and set off on their own designated path.

Personally I prefer the climax to the season being the league, potentially without playoffs. So works for me.

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by True Raven on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 9:11 am

Poor saracens in losing a couple of players to international duty before a European game, my heart bleeds for them and their deep pockets. It's been happening to the Celtic clubs for years and no one have a toss then

They need to move the six nations to after the domestic season to improve the brand of European rugby. You'll have the international matches played in better weather and clubs won't lose their players to international duty at key points in the season

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by Notch on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 9:17 am

This is genuinely fantastic news. I have long thought that the European Cup should take place in one continuous block.

I will be delighted if this comes to pass.

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by marty2086 on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 9:33 am

One thing Id query about the plans is the time frame for the QFs and SFs, if it gives them more time to sell tickets to the semis are they now not moving the problem to the quarters?

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by Recwatcher16 on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 9:37 am

True Raven wrote:Poor saracens in losing a couple of players to international duty before a European game, my heart bleeds for them and their deep pockets.  It's been happening to the Celtic clubs for years and no one have a toss then

They need to move the six nations to after the domestic season to improve the brand of European rugby.  You'll have the international matches played in better weather and clubs won't lose their players to international duty at key points in the season

I was thinking more of the Leinsters Glasgow's and Ospreys of this world playing internationals + six euros and five 6N on the trot - rather than the current gaps, but by all means put your own spin on it.

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by Notch on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 9:41 am

marty2086 wrote:One thing Id query about the plans is the time frame for the QFs and SFs, if it gives them more time to sell tickets to the semis are they now not moving the problem to the quarters?

Because quarters are at the home grounds of the top seeded teams, whereas semi-finals are at neutral grounds, the home fans do not need time to book flights and hotels and so on for the quarters.

Normally when I go down to Dublin for a game I like to sort everything out several weeks in advance, and thats just down the road. So I think it's a great idea.

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by Hazel Sapling on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 9:43 am

I think the quarters go to the top 4 qualifiers so likely have smaller stadiums and more local fanbase. With the semi's they have been trying to organise neutral locations if memory serves from last year that is roughly in the midpoint of the higher seeded clubs. If there is a week (or two) to sell 15k at Ravenhill or 12k at Sandy Park for a quarter, they have a better chance of doing it then selling 30k at the Madejeski between Wasps and Racing in 3 weeks.

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by Notch on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 9:43 am

Recwatcher16 wrote:
True Raven wrote:Poor saracens in losing a couple of players to international duty before a European game, my heart bleeds for them and their deep pockets.  It's been happening to the Celtic clubs for years and no one have a toss then

They need to move the six nations to after the domestic season to improve the brand of European rugby.  You'll have the international matches played in better weather and clubs won't lose their players to international duty at key points in the season

I was thinking more of the Leinsters  Glasgow's and Ospreys of this world playing  internationals + six euros  and five 6N on the trot - rather than the current gaps, but by all means put your own spin on it.

What will happen is we will see much more rotation in the European Cup as a result. We will not see 6 games with the strongest teams out

Eventually the Autumn internationals should be moved to the start of the season and the Six Nations to the spring.

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by Sin é on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 9:45 am

It will hit club ticket sales though. You won't get people travelling to two away games in the same month in Europe. Secondly, players are going to be wrecked going into the Six Nations. Normally, players get a rest week between competitions. They won't have time now.

The ERC had no problem selling tickets to semis or finals. The new crowd really have messed this competition up.

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by LordDowlais on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 9:46 am

Does anybody else not give a flying fig about this anymore ?

The European competition in club rugby is dying on it's feet. I used to look forward to the old HC weekends, chose the games I would watch, get the beers in for the weekend, but now I am more, meh, so it's the CC weekend, so what.

The magic has gone, the sparks and frills have gone, the excitement is just not there anymore, but I suppose if what they are suggesting brings all that back, it cannot be a bad thing. Am I excited about the fixtures this weekend ? No. I will not be putting anything on the back burner to shoe horn watching any of the games this weekend, if I am at a lose end, I will watch some of it, otherwise, nah, I will do something else.

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by Recwatcher16 on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 9:56 am

The euro comps should always be the cherry not the cake.
The magic might have gone for some but the standard has clearly gone up - having pools will always mean those sides with greater test experience will more likely come out on top eventually. If folk want magic, have a straightforward 32 team knockout competition.
If this proposal comes off, if anything the euros will now be an even stronger component of a coordinated NH season.

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by marty2086 on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 9:57 am

LordDowlais wrote:Does anybody else not give a flying fig about this anymore ?

The European competition in club rugby is dying on it's feet. I used to look forward to the old HC weekends, chose the games I would watch, get the beers in for the weekend, but now I am more, meh, so it's the CC weekend, so what.

The magic has gone, the sparks and frills have gone, the excitement is just not there anymore, but I suppose if what they are suggesting brings all that back, it cannot be a bad thing. Am I excited about the fixtures this weekend ? No. I will not be putting anything on the back burner to shoe horn watching any of the games this weekend, if I am at a lose end, I will watch some of it, otherwise, nah, I will do something else.

I think the separate broadcasters have hurt there, when everything was on Sky they told you what matches they were showing and some weekends you had a run of matches from Friday, maybe even a decent ECC game on a Thursday and watch right through to Sunday now you are checking who is showing what and when and channel hopping

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by LordDowlais on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 10:07 am

marty2086 wrote:I think the separate broadcasters have hurt there, when everything was on Sky they told you what matches they were showing and some weekends you had a run of matches from Friday, maybe even a decent ECC game on a Thursday and watch right through to Sunday now you are checking who is showing what and when and channel hopping

There could be something in that I suppose, but channel hopping does not really bother me. Perhaps though, it might be the lack of exposure it is getting. I remember ASDA, Tesco and the what not in the old HC days, their booze isle would be full of advertising, Heineken would have it everywhere, SKY would build it up to boiling point. I used to look forward to watching players I did not see on a regular basis, SKY shows the French league a lot now, so you see they're players quite often.

I don't know. The HC used to be a spot in the calendar, it used to be a focal weekend. I went to watch many a game at the CAP, and then at the other grounds. I used to get my brother and father together, we would go to the club, or to one of our houses, hunker down with a load of snacks and beverages, not anymore though, none of us could give two hoots anymore, and it is not just us, it's a pandemic, and it is happening everywhere it would seem, it's just not in the public eye anymore.

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by Pot Hale on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 10:17 am

I think having it in one block is a good thing including the quarters. Easy enough to sell the home game tickets particularly if some of the qualifiers are known before Round 6.

The plan apparently is to put the final on after the league season finials have been held - in England and Ireland anyway. Top 14 would still be later probably.

The proposal to start season in October but finish in early June suits what SH want for global season. However, the plan means that the November test window and Six Nations window now will have league games running right through them non-stop which is not good. The PRO12 wants to stop games in test windows. And they want the Six Nations start to shift by a few weeks.

I suspect that the Telegraph report is more Premiership focussed and assumptions about other unions/clubs all being on board may not be totally accurate.

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by Golden on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 12:23 pm

I really dont like the league games running at the same time as Internationals. It harms the quality of the Pro 12 more then the others as the internationals are concentrated in fewer teams. Surely the French would not agree to this though. Their domestic league has always been their priority right?

Apart from that though I like the overall idea. Having the European games in one block would make creating the buzz around the ECC much easier. Something which has definitely been missing for the last few years.

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Re: European Cup rugby look to jump gun on global season with new schedule

Post by profitius on Fri 14 Oct 2016, 3:55 pm

The changes sound good to me. Only downside would be the short lead up to the November tests.

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