New British League to merge Premiership and Pro14
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: A leading Premiership club chairman is predicting that a 24-team British League could be “up and running in two years” according to reports.
With PRO14 going down the English Premiership route and negotiating a sale of a 27 percent share worth £120million to CVC Capital Partners, the former owners of Formula One and Moto GP will seek to quickly combine the two tournaments they will have bought into, rugbypass reported.
A deal to buy into the Premiership was completed last season, with each of the 13 clubs who own Premier Rugby Ltd harvesting a reputed £13.5m each following a deal worth £275m.
“A British League will happen in two years’ time,” claimed one anonymous club chairman to The Rugby Paper. “It will happen because it is the best outcome for the game in the four home countries and for CVC.
“It will appeal to the Welsh regions in particular and the Premiership clubs. Not one is profitable with the exception of Exeter and a British League will go along way towards providing stability.
“In Wales, it will be seen as the only opportunity to be sustainable their regions lost between £5m-£6m last year.
“They have been kept going by the generosity of a few backers and the danger is they will get even fewer unless something radical is done,” continued the chairman.
“Fixtures like Cardiff Blues against Bristol, Dragons versus Gloucester, Ospreys against Bath and Scarlets against Saracens will stop the downward spiral of attendances in Wales.
“Commercially, they could be as much as 50 percent better off. It will be important to have all four Irish provinces on board but, if necessary, we will go ahead and do it without them.”
A British League, though, would effectively be a European tournament without the French and would raise questions about the viability of the European Champions and Challenge Cup tournaments in their current guise.
This idea has been warmly welcomed by Welsh fans on social media, however, many English fans have their reservations.
The Welsh regions have struggled in recent years both on the field and in terms of garnering support. Stadium attendances have plummeted as have viewing figures, and there have been funding problems with the Welsh Rugby Union.
On the other hand, the Premiership is in a much healthier position, not only with attendances, but they have a lucrative TV deal with BT Sport. Many fans are struggling to see what the incentive is for English clubs to give up their league.
The biggest concern for English fans is that a British and Irish League would devalue the Champions Cup considerably. If all nations from the British Isles were competing week on week, it would mean that there are only a handful of new and unique fixtures against French opposition in the Champions Cup. The prestige and gravitas of the European competition would be diluted as a result.
Furthermore, when looking at the Champions Cup, it is the matches against the Irish and French sides that draw in the biggest crowds in England and receive the most attention. While an Anglo-Welsh League seems the least likely of the options in the future, matches between the two countries will not be as attractive to English clubs as they are to Welsh.
However, with the funding that CVC will provide, the British and Irish League may be different from what many think it will be and could very well be a success. That is why there are some English fans that are keen on this idea. But the majority seem to be content with what is in place currently.
Can’t see an upside for English clubs with a British and Irish League. Not suddenly going to be making profits on the back of playing Cardiff and Newport. 🤷♂️ pic.twitter.com/0W7HUDyPql
— David Summers (@davidsummers64) July 21, 2019
Welsh regions to be part of a British League in two years – reports https://t.co/CcyxLrOp6h
— WalesOnline Rugby (@WalesRugby) July 21, 2019
— Rob Iles (@RobSportsTwit) July 22, 2019