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How Many Leagues Can Rugby Support?

PutPutPut

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The current trends in professional rugby are pointing to the support developing in structure to mirror football. The amount of money in the French game is drawing players from all over the globe and I believe it to be only a matter of time before the Premiership eventually removes or at least significantly raise to salary cap to compete. With that in mind, we're going to probably end up with most of the international talent concentrated into 2 or 3 leagues, much like Spain, England, Germany and Italy have about 80% of the world's top players in football.

My question is, how many similar leagues can rugby sustain. Will the AP be able to compete with its French counterpart? How long will the Celtic League manage to hang on? And what about southern competition?
 

snoopy snoopy dog dog

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I suspect the Welsh, Irish and Scottish unions main reason for allowing Italian franchises into the Celtic League/Pro 12 was access to a potentially huge TV market. The old Celtic League couldn't compete with the financial clout of the Premiership or Top 14. If Italy (and it's 80 million strong population) awakens, we could see three top European leagues sustained.
 

Tony Manx

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Problem is that without a major injection of TV money (or huge corporate/private sponsrshp) into the AP, they cannot remove the salary cap else they would end up with maybe four or five teams as the rest would be bust! There are not enough paying customers to make up the revenue to match the Top 14 budgets.

Why?.....Top 14 clubs have comparatively huge TV revenues and sponsors (Michelin/Aerospatiale and private benefactors) as French Rugby is at equal or very close to being equal in a TV following in France whereas mostly, club rugby in the UK gets little to no coverage on any tv channel other than the one that provides the feed as the viewing public do not "demand" it. How many times have you heard club scores given on ITV or BBC news or their sports news yet, on the latter, you get the Scottish and sometimes the Welsh and Irish football results....?

The position is even worse in the Rabo and the thoughts of getting the football mad Italians to start following club (not international) rugby and provide the tv audience in the reasonably near future is not realistic!

The non too distant future it is not hard to envisage all the present leagues being replaced by just one professional europe wide league with say 6 teams from France (they will have huge negotiation power), four from England, one from Wales and maybe three from Ireland...........the rest will revert to amateurism!!

This, of course, will have a huge impact on International rugby but, the French public, in the main, would not overly care as much as the other countries.....to them, club rugby is far more important....discuss!!
 

snoopy snoopy dog dog

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The non too distant future it is not hard to envisage all the present leagues being replaced by just one professional europe wide league with say 6 teams from France (they will have huge negotiation power), four from England, one from Wales and maybe three from Ireland...........the rest will revert to amateurism!!

This, of course, will have a huge impact on International rugby but, the French public, in the main, would not overly care as much as the other countries.....to them, club rugby is far more important....discuss!!
I think a single European league is very possible but there are too many vested interests for it to be limited to just 14 teams. The IRB would never approve the elimination of Scottish and Italian representation and rightly so. How would the English or French clubs decide who gets the franchises? I think a new European league would have 32 or so teams and be run on a basis similar to the NFL with maybe 20-24 league games followed by playoffs.
 

Tony Manx

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I think a single European league is very possible but there are too many vested interests for it to be limited to just 14 teams. The IRB would never approve the elimination of Scottish and Italian representation and rightly so. How would the English or French clubs decide who gets the franchises? I think a new European league would have 32 or so teams and be run on a basis similar to the NFL with maybe 20-24 league games followed by playoffs.

Only if the IRB subsidise, to a greater or lesser extent, the Scots and Italians and probably all bar the 14 teams I can see forming the league else the problem still remains, not enough money to go around.

In any case, if, and some could say when, we get to that stage, the IRB will become superfluous as it more likely to be a "Packer" type formation than one organised by the old farts in charge at the present who, with their vested interest in remuneration and perks, would fail to move in a commercial manner until it was too late!!
 

snoopy snoopy dog dog

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Only if the IRB subsidise, to a greater or lesser extent, the Scots and Italians and probably all bar the 14 teams I can see forming the league else the problem still remains, not enough money to go around.

In any case, if, and some could say when, we get to that stage, the IRB will become superfluous as it more likely to be a "Packer" type formation than one organised by the old farts in charge at the present who, with their vested interest in remuneration and perks, would fail to move in a commercial manner until it was too late!!
I agree with most of this.

14 teams sharing a big pie would be very beneficial to those franchises in the short term. Longer term, do they really want to cut out Scotland and Italy with a population of 90 million? That's a potentially lucrative TV market.

I think a single European league, even with 32 teams, would bring in as much money if not more than the contracts from the domestic leagues and the Heineken Cup currently do right from the off. By franchising it, there's the possibility to expand to new markets like Germany, Spain or emerging markets eg Dragons sell their franchise to Hannover, Connacht sell out to Barcelona, SA_racens move to Boston, London Irish relocate to, eh, London. Let the clubs run it in 50:50 partnership with the Unions (under the guise of the current ERC) and split revenues. The Unions become responsible for growing the game domestically through their share of revenue, the clubs/franchises look to expand to new markets and increase the size of the pie.

I think the IRB must have a role. For all their flaws, signs have emerged recently that they're becoming less of an old boys club and are interested in the global game. See the Sevens World Cup taking place in Russia, the end to tier two nations getting a short straw with scheduling at World Cups, Olympic inclusion from 2016 and Japan hosting the World Cup in 2019.
 
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Tony Manx

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I think a single European league, even with 32 teams, would bring in as much money if not more than the contracts from the domestic leagues and the Heineken Cup currently do right from the off. .

Not sure on the figures but I do think that the French clubs as a whole get well more than most of the other unions's clubs from TV rights and could be very hard to see them reducing their share so it would have to be huge increase to entice them as they would not be the ones as desperate for any amalgamation as the others!!
 

Jayatron

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The non too distant future it is not hard to envisage all the present leagues being replaced by just one professional europe wide league with say 6 teams from France (they will have huge negotiation power), four from England, one from Wales and maybe three from Ireland...........the rest will revert to amateurism!!

This, of course, will have a huge impact on International rugby but, the French public, in the main, would not overly care as much as the other countries.....to them, club rugby is far more important....discuss!!

I definitely disagree with this. Though money makes the world go round, there is no way that French and English clubs would break traditional values and risk alienating their target audience. Look at what has happened in Wales with regional rugby.

Further more, English clubs, for example, lie Bath, Gloucester and so on would never agree to a franchised European league, no matter of the money offered. What I could see happening, in this very unlikely situation, is clubs breaking away from the RFU and PRL and establishing their own league. Just can't see franchises working for the powerhouses of England and France.

What may happen is a expanded European season but I can't see it being a season long contest, it will be simply to much money. The travel costs will be too much for many teams.

What I could see in the future is a growth of rugby right across the world, and this will all be done on the back of professional leagues and cross boarder competition. Of course it will still not be able to rival football, but that sport works in another universe with ridiculous money and attitudes.

The big three in Europe will remain, but growth in the East will continue. The pro leagues in Russia, Georgia and Romania will come together and form a league which will help their neighbours, while Spain and Portugal will probably be overtaken in Western Europe by the likes of Belgium. But this will depend on the Olympics and RWC qualification, should have continued benefits for Russian rugby.

In Asia the RWC should help growth significantly, to what end I don't know - but Japan will continue to be the strongest nation in Asia with the Top League going from strength too strength, could include the inclusion of a South Korean team, or someone, depending on who qualifies for RWC 2019 - as host nation qualifies automatically so Asia One will be up for grabs.

Africa, hard to say with constant political and economical chaos, but be interesting to see what happens in Kenya, they could qualify RWC 2015, which would be a huge coup for rugby in Kenya. - With Namibia falling out of the top African national competition.

The Americas. This is where I feel the real market is. The US, Canada and Argentina, within the next five years I say will have fully professional leagues that will kick start their bid's for Tier One status and winning world cups. Of course this will again help neighboring countries, like Uruguay having a team or regular competition against home grown professional Argentinians. The Americas could be involved in Super Rugby but time will tell that, either way get ready to invest. US could be the next big spenders.

That's my two cents. Could be more, been warned. And great thread, never thought of posing this question.
 
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Big Ewis

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All great questions....

yeh that's uh...that's my contribution to this thread.
 

snoopy snoopy dog dog

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Of course it will still not be able to rival football, but that sport works in another universe with ridiculous money and attitudes.
I think rugby's biggest mistake would be to try mimic football. The drive when the game went pro was for more games and more competitions, akin to football's domestic club league, cup and European competitions on top of international tournaments. Such a fixture pile up has lead to Juan Mata playing 67 times this season. While more games puts bums on seats in stadia (and in theory more revenue from ticket sales), rugby is too physical a game to play 43 games per season (an Irish player can conceivably play 24 Pro 12, 9 Heineken Cup and 10 internationals in a season). Fans won't want to be short changed by 2nd string lineups for too much longer.

Other collision sports leagues like the NRL and NFL have the right idea. Fewer games of higher quality, franchising and no relegation. Relegation dampens innovation by pushing incentives to the short term ie staying up. Are we ever going to see tactical innovations in the Premiership for example where teams who most need to try something new near the bottom of the table want to stick to the tried and trusted for fear of financial ruin? Rugby with relegation and the current model in France and England will never have it's Moneyball moment.

The big three in Europe will remain, but growth in the East will continue. The pro leagues in Russia, Georgia and Romania will come together and form a league which will help their neighbours, while Spain and Portugal will probably be overtaken in Western Europe by the likes of Belgium. But this will depend on the Olympics and RWC qualification, should have continued benefits for Russian rugby.
Internationally, yes. At club level I'm not so sure it can compete with the established European leagues. The Top 14 and Premiership are too big financially and will continue to just purge talent from the east. I'm not sure that an Eastern European league will ever catch up since the major leagues in Europe are too well established already. I believe the best way to get a team in Moscow, Tblisi or Bucharest up to the standards of the current top European clubs is in a Europe-wide franchised competition.

Franchising is a very un-European model for running a sports league where promotion/relegation has been in vogue for the most part. I believe though that it's the most financially secure model and will bring about the best results if we want to grow the sport.
 

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I can say that in the Russian system of franchises is not possible. I will not even talk in terms of fans, as purely economic. Now, Rus professional clubs have good budgets (from 500 thousand euros to 5 million). And vice versa Rus Rugby Union is very poor (2 million euros a year), plus it works primarily on the development of rugby-7...(f* Olimpics). But RRU has the power and control levers. It turns a conflict of interest. No president of the club will not give money and players to RRU to make it on their spending this franchise. But if Russia will places in European competition, I am sure that many clubs will be able to dramatically increase their budgets and will seek to well play in the Amlin Cup.
 

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Would it not be possible to have a super rugby mould in European rugby, so like there are number of different teams from each of the main countries (4 french, 4 english, 3 irish, 2 welsh, 1 scottish and 1 italian), who play in the same setup of tournament as SR for part of the season, and then each individual nation also has club rugby, like ITM cup and currie cup for the latter stage of the season while the 6N is going on?
 

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Would it not be possible to have a super rugby mould in European rugby, so like there are number of different teams from each of the main countries (4 french, 4 english, 3 irish, 2 welsh, 1 scottish and 1 italian), who play in the same setup of tournament as SR for part of the season, and then each individual nation also has club rugby, like ITM cup and currie cup for the latter stage of the season while the 6N is going on?

I really don't see Saints, Leicester and Bedford supporters teaming up to cheer on the same side. It would be the same as trying to get Gloucester, Bath, and Bristol supporters to drop their rivalries. And where would the regions be based? This question seems to come up time and time again - club rugby in England and France doesn't need regional franchises to work so I don't see it ever happening.
 

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Great topic, it's something I often ponder hailing from Birmingham where our teams have fairly awful support.

On the AP competing with the top 14:
I always ask myself would a team in Britains second largest city work? frankly no not unless there was a significant culture change. I cant speak for other cities but rugby just isnt that accesable to young children here. I'm 28 and my first experience of Rugby was seeing us win the world cup on the news. I had to actively make the effort to find out about rugby, i watched the 6N from then on, the first world cup that I actually watched was '07. The local paper has very little about Moseley or Birmingham & solihull but neither do the general populace seem to care. It's always football other sports are shunted 6-7 pages back for example. warks are current county champions but I'd put good money on 9/10 people here not knowing that. I'd guess that it's hugely different in the traditional rugby towns like Gloucester etc but until you get these huge metropolitan areas watching and interested in rugby things are going to stay the same with regards to better sponsers & tv deals.

But it's also IMO a sign of the growing change in how we view our sports, for example Aston Villa (sorry to bang on about Birmingham things, but it's all I have experience of) are the biggest sports team in the West Midlands. They have supposedly over 1million fans (facebook likes), dubious stat I know but the population of the area is 2.3million so not to far fetched. yet they get 35k-40k attendance in what is a 42k capacity stadium. When I speak to people in bars,gyms etc they all say the same things its to expensive to pay £30-40 a ticket or it's all on down the local watering hole via Greek tv. Also the kids who are about 10-15 years younger than me are growing up in the PL golden area where they don't feel empathy to local teams as it's become so expensive to actually visit games that there exposure to sport is via their living rooms. People just arent going to live sports anymore and support for teams that arent neccesarily succesful wanes. I like no doubt all of you first experienced my games live and the support carried on from then. 10 years ago sportsdays at schools were kids in villa,Blues & west brom kits and the one Man U Kid that vainly tried to explain coming from the stetford. Nows it's the other way round where it's the kid that's in the local kits that look odd. Sports are being viewed from the sofa more & more and will continue as the average man is priced out of the market. And It's because of my contempt for these glory hunting tv fan types that i've dragged myself down to billesley common & villa park (i am a villa fan but have only ever been a 1-2 times a year visitor due to not having the time) on the odd occasion to watch a Moseley game purely to support a local team. I can't help but think that Moseley & Birmingham both have missed a trick here though. Years ago at school we were visited by the Birmingham bullets basketball team and they took a PE lesson for us and we were given a free ticket voucher, I couldn't go eventually due to family reasons but most of the kids went and 1-2 continued to go there after. I can't understand why neither Birmingham based rugby outfit hasn't done something similar to drum up support. Especially with the average man not being able to take his kids to the football as much anymore. I don't have children myself yet but I'd love to take my kids to 1-2 live games when their older, if its £30-40 for a family day out at the rugby compared to £150 at the villa it doesn't take a genius to see where I'll be taking them.

Somethings I would seriously look at is moving the season to fill the hole that football leaves every summer, there are plenty of casual fans that will watch premier league games on Sky that don't involve their teams rather than watch a AP game. Of course it will overlap but if the business end of a season came after the football had finished it could build more of a following IMO. I'd also condense the cup competitions. And maybe field B teams in the lower leagues like Spanish football teams do.

Eventually I see a situation where the rugby grows on a global scale but I still think we're 30-40 years from it truly being a global sport. I see in England anyway lots of smaller teams merging and a general condensing of the pyramid where it's quality not quantity. For example I'm at a loss as to why the 2 Birmingham outfits aren't merging anyway to pool resources in the hope of one day getting an AP team. The only other way I see anybody breaking into the AP with the current system is in a Worcester style (I live in the south west suburbs of the city not far from the Worcester border and I occasionally see the odd warriors jersey or car sticker in the worcestershire towns but that's literally the last 1-2 years and its rare, but they are growing) with a financial backer.
 

Tony Manx

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I definitely disagree with this. Though money makes the world go round, there is no way that French and English clubs would break traditional values and risk alienating their target audience. Look at what has happened in Wales with regional rugby.

Further more, English clubs, for example, lie Bath, Gloucester and so on would never agree to a franchised European league, no matter of the money offered. What I could see happening, in this very unlikely situation, is clubs breaking away from the RFU and PRL and establishing their own league. Just can't see franchises working for the powerhouses of England and France.

What may happen is a expanded European season but I can't see it being a season long contest, it will be simply to much money. The travel costs will be too much for many teams.

What I could see in the future is a growth of rugby right across the world, and this will all be done on the back of professional leagues and cross boarder competition. Of course it will still not be able to rival football, but that sport works in another universe with ridiculous money and attitudes.

The big three in Europe will remain, but growth in the East will continue. The pro leagues in Russia, Georgia and Romania will come together and form a league which will help their neighbours, while Spain and Portugal will probably be overtaken in Western Europe by the likes of Belgium. But this will depend on the Olympics and RWC qualification, should have continued benefits for Russian rugby.

In Asia the RWC should help growth significantly, to what end I don't know - but Japan will continue to be the strongest nation in Asia with the Top League going from strength too strength, could include the inclusion of a South Korean team, or someone, depending on who qualifies for RWC 2019 - as host nation qualifies automatically so Asia One will be up for grabs.

Africa, hard to say with constant political and economical chaos, but be interesting to see what happens in Kenya, they could qualify RWC 2015, which would be a huge coup for rugby in Kenya. - With Namibia falling out of the top African national competition.

The Americas. This is where I feel the real market is. The US, Canada and Argentina, within the next five years I say will have fully professional leagues that will kick start their bid's for Tier One status and winning world cups. Of course this will again help neighboring countries, like Uruguay having a team or regular competition against home grown professional Argentinians. The Americas could be involved in Super Rugby but time will tell that, either way get ready to invest. US could be the next big spenders.

That's my two cents. Could be more, been warned. And great thread, never thought of posing this question.

Sorry for delay...little computer problem.

Again sorry if I misunderstand you or have not been clear.........I am NOT talking about English or French "franchises" .......I do not think that the top French clubs will go bust as long as they continue to have the French TV money and/or corporate/personal sponsors and as long as they keep that finance, they will continue to attract the talent from all other leagues.

My suggested possible future is only based on the scenario that the salary cap in the AP is removed leading to a UK free for all which would damage the Rabo initially and the AP eventually with clubs not being able to compete with the French and English clubs who would have all the money and which no amount of spectator income will cover.

In this situation, the French top clubs such as ASM, Toulon, Toulouse, and Racing (together maybe Stade and Montpellier) will look around for clubs to play against as the rest of the Top 14 will fall away and the TV revenue will have to be protected. This will be in jeopardy if there is no sustainable oppostion and Leicester, Sarries and Saints will have a similar problem as the other AP clubs will not be able to compete moneywise and nor will the Irish and Welsh clubs......

In that scenario, the european league may just be the only future for the big clubs................

I can see the USA competing for players in the very long term but they are going to have to go through some years of grief ala the US soccer league and that has caused no appreicable challenge yet to europe in the market for the top players (other than Beckham who was in his early retirement stage when he went to LA for commercial rather then football reasons!)

As for the IRB or national bodies objecting.........tough! Money talks hence the reference to Packer!!
 
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snoopy snoopy dog dog

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Somethings I would seriously look at is moving the season to fill the hole that football leaves every summer, there are plenty of casual fans that will watch premier league games on Sky that don't involve their teams rather than watch a AP game. Of course it will overlap but if the business end of a season came after the football had finished it could build more of a following IMO. I'd also condense the cup competitions. And maybe field B teams in the lower leagues like Spanish football teams do.
This 100 times over.

I love the atmosphere night time games around Christmas generate. I hate the turgid rugby that goes with it. A season starting at the beginning of February and ending at the end of October would avoid the worst of the weather leading to better rugby in my opinion. I don't think it will happen but do think it should happen.
 
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Tony Manx

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This 100 times over.

I love the atmosphere night time games around Christmas generate. I hate the turgid rugby that goes with it. A season starting at the beginning of February and ending at the end of October would avaoid the worst of the weather leading to better rugby in my opinion. I don't think it will happen but think do think it should happen.


Ha.....can you see the French giving up their July and August holidays to stay at home to watch their rugby team...............!!

Anyway, it would be far too hot.,...in normal summers..... to play it in France in the summer when the temperature can be in the mid 30's for weeks on end......Oh how those days would come back, we have had three days of heavy rains with roads closed due to flooding!!!
 

snoopy snoopy dog dog

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Ha.....can you see the French giving up their July and August holidays to stay at home to watch their rugby team...............!!

Anyway, it would be far too hot.,...in normal summers..... to play it in France in the summer when the temperature can be in the mid 30's for weeks on end......Oh how those days would come back, we have had three days of heavy rains with roads closed due to flooding!!!
Even at night for 8pm kickoffs?

Suggesting rugby should be played during the summer is pie in the sky stuff on, at least in the short term. The reason I'd flirt with the idea is to promote running rugby.
 

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This 100 times over.

I love the atmosphere night time games around Christmas generate. I hate the turgid rugby that goes with it. A season starting at the beginning of February and ending at the end of October would avoid the worst of the weather leading to better rugby in my opinion. I don't think it will happen but do think it should happen.

I fully agree with this. The quality of rugby in the first couple and final couple of months of the season is so much better than the generally turgid stuff played in mid December. Also do the more casual fans really want to sit in the stands on a night where temperatures are approaching zero in driving wind and rain? Replace that with having a few beers on a glorious summer evening watching more attacking rugby and I don't see any downfalls at all, at least not in the UK. Temperatures in the South of France may be a problem, but as Snoop says, surely a late kick-off would be manageable? Managing freezing temperatures and snow in winter is surely just as difficult?

The added bonus of this would be a global season, thus providing the opportunity for cross hemisphere club games (winner of HC v winner of Super rugby for example). The 6 nations could be pushed closer to summer, again resulting in better conditions and more exciting rugby. I also think it would be easier to manage international windows.

On top of all of this, a re-structuring of the NH season should imo be done in a way to reduce the crossover of competitions as it is now. For example, the season should start with each individual domestic league (Pro12, Premiership and Top14), each running through to completion; this could be followed by the 6 nations, and then by European competitions (HC and Amlin). The current set-up is a little all over the shop going from domestic to european to international, back to domestic, back to international, back to european and then finally back to domestic (or at least similar to that). This doesn't help the clubs/regions/provinces or the fans, especially new fans we are hoping to draw.
 

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I fully agree with this. The quality of rugby in the first couple and final couple of months of the season is so much better than the generally turgid stuff played in mid December. Also do the more casual fans really want to sit in the stands on a night where temperatures are approaching zero in driving wind and rain? Replace that with having a few beers on a glorious summer evening watching more attacking rugby and I don't see any downfalls at all, at least not in the UK. Temperatures in the South of France may be a problem, but as Snoop says, surely a late kick-off would be manageable? Managing freezing temperatures and snow in winter is surely just as difficult?

Yes exactly this, Cricket is a similar thing for me my first exposure was '05 ashes and since then I've been to any international at Edgebaston that I can get to. My mates weren't really interested until I dragged a few to a 20/20 game and we've go every year because of this atmosphere to watch warks.
 

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