European club rugby idea

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Post by cdm86 on Thu 21 Feb 2019, 7:14 pm

I was wondering recently about the popularity of the sport in my home town and of the nature of domestic rugby. As a disclaimer i am a rugby fan, but generally i only really follow international rugby like the six nations, world cup etc. Although i do follow the Tigers results they don't seem to be a major topic of conversation in my circles, They clearly are major draw in the city and surrounding areas and everyone knows of them and wishes them well at the very least. What I don't see in the city is much marketing or advertising of regular season games. Tigers fans are always going to come along to a game but i only see a match advertised if it's a high profile visiting team.

Just a quick search tells me that rugby attendances for Premiership games is increasing, albeit slowly, and TV audience figures are doing very well. Interest does seem to take a massive uplift though during the Six Nations and i am seeing dozens of memes on Facebook and hearing chats about the championship at work and down at the shops.

I am dying to see more interest in the domestic season in England, i think the lack of any free to air games really puts a dent into driving interest for the Premiership though and hearing disappointing things like running a closed shop league and the bullying tactics of the French and English clubs over the Heineken Cup really didn't help matters. Hardcore rugby people are still into their clubs, they attend the games, buy the merchandise and watch on TV, that will not change, but if the premiership bosses are interested in growth then i think they have gone about it in a very odd way, i'm not seeing anything that gets the casual fans buying into the product and i wonder if that's why i personally see less interest in the Tigers season over the last few years.

This is only from my perspective and observations as a casual fan obviously and maybe its different for other people especially in other parts of the country , but i think an interesting league with free-to-air coverage would do wonders to grow this game into becoming the mainstream sport that it achieves during Six Nations season and what it deserves. How popular is the Premiership outside of the Rugby hotbeds? If your town city doesn't have a club nearby, do you follow rugby at all?

My question really is for all the Rugby fans is, how much are you attached to an English Premiership or the PRO14 as a competition? Is the competition providing the excitement and quality every week? The big derbies at Twickenham etc are massive games but is overall interest waning?

Big games sell well, but after 6 home fixtures so far only Bath fill the stadium to above 90% capacity crowds. The on field spectacle is good, quality exciting games that matter, i would argue in a poorly marketed product and a lacklustre competition though. Rugby is a physical game where only so many matches can take place in a season so it doesn't usually get the dead rubber feature that a lot of football games often do, and increasingly so due to the wealth gap. I follow some North American sports so i am familiar with playoffs and why they exist, (mainly due to a conference system that is implemented to help with travel), I can not fathom why in a 12 team fairly local league would you need a playoff system? It does help with teams who send a lot of players on International duty admittedly catch back up, but that could be easily offset with a season break better.

I was listening to reports of the purported breakaway super league for football and thinking for so many reasons why this hurts football as a sport, creating franchisees out of clubs that prospered in a wider strong league, and locking all the wealth perpetually to these clubs, makes me shudder!

Whilst dismissing that for football i couldn't stop thinking how it could work for domestic rugby so easily. Rugby worldwide has a much lower player base and the gulf between a top performance team and lower league team is massive, bordering on dangerous if they were to ever meet! This results in the needed regions that you see with the four Irish and Welsh regions and the two Italian and Scottish teams, the entire player base for these countries in a minimal amount of teams to remain competitive and play with equally skilled players week in week out.

My proposal would be to scrap the Premiership, Pro14 and Top 14 and Champions Cup and create a European Super League that would replace the domestic season for all clubs involved. The Heineken/ Champions Cup seems to have lost its swagger with most matches not having the boost in attendance or profile that you would expect, this could change again in the future but it doesn't have the feel of an elite level tournament that it once did, although it never really felt like it got going before the knockouts anyway. Yes there would be a lot of issues with national unions and the control over these clubs but i would argue that the threat is already there and unions should be concentrating on the grassroots and national teams anyway. Domestic rugby doesn't have a lot of games per season and profits for the limited amount of games need to be maximised as much as possible and I believe clubs can best do that as part of a bigger and better competition without having to play the same teams every year, reserve those big Twickenham games for special occasions before they lose their prestige. Rugby union has the ability to be like the NFL, those 8 home games a year NHL teams have are a big big deal locally even if they don't make the playoffs. Each game is a massive event, much like the Six Nations games are.

If it would go ahead i could see many different formats but i would advocate for all existing Pro 14 teams from Ireland, Wales Italy and Scotland to be included, 14 teams from the Top 14 and the 12 from the Premiership, add two more from England and you have a nice round 40 teams. That's two many teams so would need splitting up, going with non regional groups you could have draw them into pools every year, new opponents each year to keep it fresh, you wouldn't want a conference system like Super Rugby or the North American sports . Having enough home games is really important so each 'pool' would need to be big enough, four groups of 10 would give you 18 regular season games, a decent amount in itself, playing each other team in your group once at home and once away with no cross pool play. I would add a knockout stage after as it would be a spectacle and also more games for the season as 18 is low compared to what they currently play (English teams playing between 28-32 competitive games a season) .

I would think 16 from the 40 would be a good amount to make the knockout phases. Top 3 from each pool for 12 teams. The 4th place teams would playoff against the 5th placed teams to join the round of 16. Top four is better in some ways but this way can offset a tough group a little All knockout rounds would be best of three, with the better placed team in the league stage having the potential deciding game at home, i have added this step as it adds more games and i feel aggregate score is a terrible way for rugby ties to be decided as the ebb and flow can be so different game to game and even weather playing a big part in how high scoring a game could be. Final would be a single fixture in a neutral stadium.

This would give the top 3 teams in a pool a total of between 20-28 games, playoff winner would have between 22-31 games. Alternatively the top 16 could be split into 4 pools of 4 (6 games) with the winners advancing to one off semi finals and grand final. Gives the top four 24-26 games.

Now 18 games is quite low for the teams that didn't make the next round so i would add a meaningful step of a relegation playoff it adds more drama and adds relegation. Two ways i think could work, first one is linking the bottom 5 from two groups into one pool of 10, results against the teams in your original pool are kept and you play home and away against the new 5 for an addition 10 games given you a 28 game season, the bottom team from this new group is relegated, meaning 2 relegated in total. Or the second option would be take the bottom 6 from each original group and make 6 groups of 4, another 6 games for 24 total. Bottom team of each new group plays off against a 'Division 2' side for a place in the next years competition.

The division 2 could look like this competition in theory but would probably be too much travel. It could include a still intact RFU championship, principality premiership, D2 league, and Scottish and Italian second divisions plus Irish B teams, even a league for German, Romanian, Georgian, Spanish, Russian teams. Promotion/relegation is massively important for sports and this would give any prospective club all over Europe a chance of reaching a premier competition.

You could even add a world challenge competition with the semi finalists meeting the semi finalists of Super Rugby, or the best performing team from each of the Tier one nations having an end of year knockout to establish a 'world champion'!

I think this is what domestic Rugby needs and i would be interested to hear what changes you guys think need making? if any at all!? These are my ideas so obviously i like them Wink but it would be great to hear all your thoughts.



Thanks for Reading!

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Post by formerly known as Sam on Thu 21 Feb 2019, 7:48 pm

Rugby is an probably will always be a minority sport compared to football. Certain public houses will back rugby on TV over football due to personal preference or because they want to entice a certain crowd. Where I live there is about 10 pubs in the town but only two that will show rugby outside of the 6N and one of those isn't fussed about catering for a sporting audience.

There is free to air rugby on channel 5 from time to time so watch out for that.

Most clubs pitch most ticket deals to schools, appealing to potential young fans and catering to their parents desire for their offspring to have interests away from a TV set or their phone. You won't see much marketing from Tigers at the minute because quite frankly there's little to shout about.

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Post by nathan on Thu 21 Feb 2019, 8:25 pm

Most of Tigers advertising is done on social media

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Post by RugbyFan100 on Fri 22 Feb 2019, 11:31 am

cdm86 wrote:

My question really is for all the Rugby fans is, how much are you attached to an English Premiership or the PRO14 as a competition? Is the competition providing the excitement and quality every week? The big derbies at Twickenham etc are massive games but is overall interest waning?

!

I'm a season ticket holder at a Welsh Pro14 club, and I dislike the competition. It's a shambles in my opinion. From the lacklustre fixtures, to the quality of officiating, to the lack of away fans at each game. I go and support my team in it. But that's about it.

Tonight for instance, I'll be probably switching between the Wales u20s fixture and Gloucester v Saracens. Even though Ospreys v Munster is on. The Pro14 just doesn't capture my imagination or harbour any excitement in me.

And I'm a season ticket holder invested in Welsh domestic rugby, so goodness knows how it's supposed to attract the floating voters.

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Post by cdm86 on Fri 22 Feb 2019, 11:45 am

Would a pan European league excite more on a week on week basis do you think?

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Post by LordDowlais on Fri 22 Feb 2019, 11:53 am

RugbyFan100 wrote:Tonight for instance, I'll be probably switching between the Wales u20s fixture and Gloucester v Saracens. Even though Ospreys v Munster is on. The Pro14 just doesn't capture my imagination or harbour any excitement in me.

Could not agree more with this.

The Pro14 is fighting for it's life in this neck of the woods. Unfortunately.

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Post by LondonTiger on Fri 22 Feb 2019, 11:57 am

cdm86 wrote:Would a pan European league excite more on a week on week basis do you think?

I would have thought the issues people have with a pan European league would be similar to the issues they have with the Pro14. Such a league would be unlikely to ever be under consideration as The Franch and English leagues can stand on their own. Effectively Pro14 is a pan European league I guess.


As to your earlier point about marketing matches and Tigers visibility in Leicester. They used to have a shop up in the centre, but it was not selling enough to justify it's existence. As mentioned by someone else, social media is used a lot as well as sending the players out round the county and beyond to primarily kids events. Tigers were in the Highcross Centre earlier this week.

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Post by RugbyFan100 on Fri 22 Feb 2019, 12:25 pm

cdm86 wrote:Would a pan European league excite more on a week on week basis do you think?

Not really. Because the same teams would be playing week in week out really.

I'd prefer an Anglo-Welsh league, but that isn't going to happen any time soon.

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Post by cdm86 on Fri 22 Feb 2019, 11:17 pm

That's why I think a larger European cup could work. My point is really the visibility of rugby union even in a hotbed like leicester is still pretty niche.
I just can't see club rugby reaching the heights of international rugby with the current setup. The format of the premiership is awful, the Anglo Welsh cup died a death and the Heineken cup lost its luster around the time the English and French held it to ransom. Its likely they'll want to ring fence the competion soon, effectively franchising the domestic game for the betterment of the owners. Just don't see the current direction being positive, there is not enough teams in each league to not feel like your playing the same team all the time. That's why I would advocate a super league, random large pools each year as your league and that would hopefully add some variety each year.

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Post by LondonTiger on Sat 23 Feb 2019, 8:19 am

Rugby is a niche sport though.

I would argue that DMU is more visible in Leicester than either LFC or LCFC, with neither of the sporting clubs being especially visible in the city outside of Matchdays.

Tigers get bigger crowds for Premiership games, than they do for European. I believe that is the same on average across the league. Fans like local rivalries.

The constituent members of Pro14 were forced into combining to provide a "product" that would both generate income and create the competition needed for players to progress. Ireland, Scotland and Wales were too small to go alone, Italy did not have sufficient players or fans to support a league and the Kings and Cheetahs had lost their SR franchises. A pan country league made sense, but did alienate a lot of died in the wool Welsh fans.

Finally you say that club rugby will never be as big as international. Maybe true on TV, but across the league we often see more fans attending games than can fit into Twickenham.

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Post by The Great Aukster on Sat 23 Feb 2019, 9:22 am

There already is a pan-European league called the Pro14!

Allegedly about 8 or 9 club owners had meetings (when the PRL screwed up the HEC) to start a closed European super league similar to the sh Super Rugby. The IRFU were approached because Leinster and Munster's participation was considered essential but the IRFU wouldn't accept the resulting two tier structure nor the impact on the Test season.

If the Pro14 continues to improve the quality of it's rugby and earning capability it is only a matter of time before some club owners in France once again consider breaking away from the LNR. The perpetual union v club battles going on in France and England could make both the FFR and RFU more receptive to sanctioning an alternative playing field for at least some of their clubs.

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Post by LondonTiger on Sat 23 Feb 2019, 9:57 am

The Champions Cup is no more screwed up than the HEC was. IMO it is better, as there are less walkover fixtures. It could be further improved by reducing to 16 teams. Arguably the changes have helped improve the Pro14 by rewarding teams who do well.

I do not want to start yet another argument, and will always concede that at times PRL have used the financial muscle they bring to behave like bullies. Yet, after RFU messed up and refused permission to English clubs to enter the first competition, it was the harsh conditions applied to English clubs that led to the first fight. We were given a lower share of income and reduced voting rights, and diplomacy gained no concessions. After the "strike" we got more than we were asking for before. This empowered the likes of McCafferty, Wray and Bruce to behave like ****s.

So by necessity we have a pan European league for those who need it, and a European cup for those who earn the right to compete.

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Post by LeinsterFan4life on Sat 23 Feb 2019, 10:25 am

cdm86 wrote:That's why I think a larger European cup could work. My point is really the visibility of rugby union even in a hotbed like leicester is still pretty niche.
I just can't see club rugby  reaching the heights of international rugby with the current setup. The format of the premiership is awful, the Anglo Welsh cup died a death and the Heineken cup lost its luster around the time the English and French held it to ransom.  Its likely they'll want to ring fence the competion soon, effectively franchising the domestic game for the betterment of the owners.  Just don't see the current direction being positive, there is not enough teams in each league to not feel like your playing the same team all the time. That's why I would advocate a super league, random large pools each year as your league and that would hopefully add some variety each year.
Why would club rugby ever hit the heights of international rugby? Or why would we ever want it to? Internationals are supposed to be the peak of the game and will always be far more attractive to the casual fan.

A strong intentional format is what grows the game of rugby around the world, look at the crowds that Chile and Brazil got for the NZ Maori last summer, most of us didn't even know they played rugby down there until a couple of years ago. Our international scene is the envy of rugby league fans, who have long called for their clubs to give the RLIF more power to set up international windows to help grow their game around the world as they still can't get the game out of the heartlands. Shockingly their international teams can actually go years without having a home game!

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Post by Eejit on Sat 23 Feb 2019, 11:36 am

Pro14 is a fine product to develop players for international as long as it continues to be profitable for the unions. Outside of a couple of fans of the old Welsh clubs still embittered by the loss of the old club game My experience is that most fans of the Pro14 see the league as having improved year on year and hopefully that trend continues.

Anyone moaning about the state of the Pro14 need only watch Glasgow’s last two fixtures against Cardiff and Connacht. Two hugely entertaining fixtures, full of running rugby and really great fun to watch. If that’s not what you’re wanting then you should probably just go watch something else. Plenty other channels on the telly these days.

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Post by SecretFly on Sat 23 Feb 2019, 12:12 pm

Pro14 is already a pan Europe League.... and further with the addition of SA teams. Nobody wants to be consumed by the big two leagues in Europe (England and France) and that' exactly what would happen with 28 teams of both in the mix. Before long the extremities would be drained of best players and best coaches and dumped to the bottom of the league or into the lesser relegation leagues. 'Fine you little folk, you'll be satisfied playing in the lesser little leagues and the Toulon and Saracens shirts won't be that expensive when you change your allegiances from Scarlett, Glasgow or Leinster.

Em no thanks..... only turkeys are dumb enough to vote for Christmas.

So if there were to be a European League then it would have to an extension of the one already operating... and it inviting four of the top English sides and four of the top French sides in.... to a non relegation league coz we all know as soon as you start bouncing in and out of the top league, your days of attracting or keeping best coaches and players takes a nosedive.

In truth though, Europe is big enough in population terms to cater for the three big leagues as is. Heineken is fine for building the temperature at different times in the year but Pro14 is a fine product for keeping the lesser populated Nations competitive both at 'club' and International.

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Post by Brendan on Sat 23 Feb 2019, 6:04 pm

The European Cups are good because it's all about being the top dog and showing you are not just a good team in a poor league.

In relation to a pan European league, the Pro14 is looking to grow the league. I think they have learn from the Italians that they need to be a league that develops teams.

I also think the Pro14 should actively try get a team in the league from North England and a team like Biarritz who are a wellsupported team with crazy fans, but they just can't compete with the money teams that now dominate the T14.

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Post by BigGee on Sat 23 Feb 2019, 7:19 pm

The Pro 14 is a decent league and it continues to improve.

The Scottish sides are better, the Italian sides are improving and the South Africans will get there.

The Welsh ate having z bit of an existential crisis atm, but at some stage when they have worked out what they want, they will realises that for them, it is the only game in town

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