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How Many Leagues Can Rugby Support?

Tony Manx

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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.
No one wants to sit in the stands in the winter for a 21.00 kick off like I had to do more often than not last season! in an ideal world, we coul all get back to the 15.00 kick off on a Saturday but that is as likely as summer rugby!
 

William18

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I can't see another really strong league appearing in the immediate future. I think the Japanese league will stay at about the same strength. It seems to me that the top teams over there put all their money into one or two stars and spend little on actually developing their players. That has to be having an affect on the sport over there. I think if other countries in Europe do develop as rugby playing nations then they will look to get teams in the Pro 12 rather than trying to create their own professional league. I don't think a pan-European league would be a great way forward. I think you have the best of both worlds right now with meaningful domestic competitions and then the Heineken Cup on top of that.

I think that we could see a professionalish league in America in the not to distant future. An American-Canadian-Argentinian league could be great if it could get off the ground. What you need to do in a country like America is identify markets without teams. There must be plenty of cities in America with 300,000 people that may only have a Minor League Baseball team or something.

If you guys want to move your season to summer then that would be great for us down south. You do have to ask though, has it really worked for rugby league?
 

Tallshort

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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.

Sorry but that is rubbish! When I was a junior playing at Burton (in the 80s) we played clubs from Handsworth, Sutton Coldfield, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Solihull, plus Coventry and Lichfield. The annual tournament was always held in Handsworth and was a massive affair.

Rugby in Birminghams problem is (well its not actually a problem) is that most people who love their rugby are normally playing it on a Saturday or helping out at their local club. This is the real reason why rugby will always struggle to replicate the supporter numbers Soccer does because Rugby is a players game, football is a fans game. Why do the Welsh regions struggle for bums on seats? because on a saturday the vast majority of rugby people are playing for their local club, thats the same in England and the same in the Scottish borders. Players will make an exception if they get tickets for an international but week in week out they only care about their local club, going to watch a game at the region or the bigger club in Northampton is a one in while treat but nothing more.

If this means we can support no more pro teams than we do now then so be it, I wouldnt want more professional clubs at the expense of the grass roots game particulary here in England and certainly wouldnt want to see any more franchise operations coming into the game that have no historic connection to the local area.
 

powerfulduck

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Sorry but that is rubbish! When I was a junior playing at Burton (in the 80s) we played clubs from Handsworth, Sutton Coldfield, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Solihull, plus Coventry and Lichfield. The annual tournament was always held in Handsworth and was a massive affair.

Rugby in Birminghams problem is (well its not actually a problem) is that most people who love their rugby are normally playing it on a Saturday or helping out at their local club. This is the real reason why rugby will always struggle to replicate the supporter numbers Soccer does because Rugby is a players game, football is a fans game. Why do the Welsh regions struggle for bums on seats? because on a saturday the vast majority of rugby people are playing for their local club, thats the same in England and the same in the Scottish borders. Players will make an exception if they get tickets for an international but week in week out they only care about their local club, going to watch a game at the region or the bigger club in Northampton is a one in while treat but nothing more.

If this means we can support no more pro teams than we do now then so be it, I wouldnt want more professional clubs at the expense of the grass roots game particulary here in England and certainly wouldnt want to see any more franchise operations coming into the game that have no historic connection to the local area.

Firstly yes there are small rugby clubs in Birmingham, Kings heath RFC for example by me is fairly close by but it there's only about 100 people involved including spectators. It's the only club in an area with a population of 100000 so that's a ratio of 1 in 1000 are interested, hardly awe inspiring. Another bone of contention I have is that we never had exposure to the sport in schools, I attended a run of the mill mixed secondary school that had 300 kids per year with roughly a 50/50 split in gender and we had 3 football teams and a netball team for the girls. The football teams were reduced to one team of 11 for 150 boys between the ages of 11-16 and nothing else. It was much the same in the other schools around the area, the only schools I know of that played Rugby or Cricket were wealthy Private schools. If kids are denied access how will the sport ever grow? Birmingham is a city of 1million people and I know of 4 schools that play Rugby that's criminal. With regards to the franchising it's something I don't like simply because I've adopted Moseley as my team and they have a fairly rich history but attendance is approx. 800 people per game and talking to guys who were around back in there heyday I'd rather see Moseley resurgent.
 

Tallshort

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Secondary schools have never played a great deal of rugby and never will (my school never played it) but kids are not denied access because there are plenty of clubs in the West Midlands that provide mini rugby, it is up to the kids and their parents to get involved and will add that junior rugby is triving at the minute and is bigger than its ever been regards Moseley well I remember watching Moseley play at Ireland Avenue (Nottingham) and Welford rd but times have changed, 800 supporters is not enough to sustain a pro club, Nottingham have only just escaped folding a number of times with better crowds than that. Yes its would be great if every club got a crack at the big time but you have to be realisitic unless you have good crowds and a decent business model then you are better off accepting life as a good local club in the lower tiers. Over ambition can kill clubs look at London Welsh. One point I will add, Rugby in the West Midlands and Staffordshire is as strong as anywhere else in the country, it doesnt need a pro team to prove that.
 

powerfulduck

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I think you've not got my point (or I've not made my point clearly enough) but we are talking about the AP competing with the Top 14, for that to happen IMO rugby needs to break into the mainstream culture of the big urban areas to create a larger fan base & revenues. I used Birmingham as an example as it's my city and IMO rugby here is a bit of a closed shop. Parents will only take their kids to rugby if they are into rugby themselves but if a kid comes home from school raving about his PE where there playing touch it will at least garner interest. Sure that interest will drop off in some maybe even the majority but with some that interest will stick and rugby's fan base has grown.
 

Tallshort

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I think you've not got my point (or I've not made my point clearly enough) but we are talking about the AP competing with the Top 14, for that to happen IMO rugby needs to break into the mainstream culture of the big urban areas to create a larger fan base & revenues. I used Birmingham as an example as it's my city and IMO rugby here is a bit of a closed shop. Parents will only take their kids to rugby if they are into rugby themselves but if a kid comes home from school raving about his PE where there playing touch it will at least garner interest. Sure that interest will drop off in some maybe even the majority but with some that interest will stick and rugby's fan base has grown.

No I do get you but I wouldnt want Rugby to break into mainsteam culture, what makes rugby appeal to lots of people is that it is different from the normal circus that surrounds soccer and that the values, fans and participents of rugby are different to what the majority of people expect at football. Whether thats the behaviour of the crowd or the abuse parents shout at officals. Rugby Union has its own little subculture in England and I am happy with that but to say its a closed shop is incorrect. My experiances of playing rugby have always been very positive, you turn up at a club and everyone is normally very welcoming and as long as you show some commitment people are always happy to see you no matter what level you play at which is the opposite of most Football teams where you have to "be in the click" to get on.

The pro game in England is a big as it really needs to be I dont get why we would want to make it more mainstream or increase the number of pro clubs etc, interest comes and goes with rugby, one year a club will have 4 teams another year only 2 but that happens. Our focus should really be on the people who run these clubs and coach the minis, play in the 3rd every week and spend their free time raising funds for Colts tours not on making rugby appeal to people who would only watch it because x factor is finished.
 

powerfulduck

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There's nothing wrong with that aspiration and to some extent I agree with you. Realistically though the game is growing around the world and in order to compete long term so must we grow to. I'd like to see the game protected across the board with wage caps and other systems etc. But Rugby isn't going to grow larger than soccer at least not in our lifetimes anyway. I'd prefer rugby to learn from soccers mistakes going forward, soccer is in a huge mess with agents & lack of domestic talent and has become a sideshow off the field. I pray that rugby doesn't follow that route as it grows.

with the closed shop thing, I'm of the belief that in order to produce world class players you need them to learn their craft from a young age and I just don't think this attitude of if they want to play they can do it themselves is acceptable. You have to get a selection of sports in all schools that's paramount for me. Sadly I have an arm injury which pretty much renders me useless from contact sports but even so I'd have been 19 in '03 that's just to late for somebody like me to learn there craft IMO (I'd have prob been **** anyway lol) but hopefully you see my point. Who's to say the next Jonah lomu isn't 11 not very good at soccer in a ****ty school in Manchester,Birmingham,Liverpool etc he just doesn't know it because he's never even held a ball?
 
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Tallshort

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Agree about a selection of sports but its the local authorities that decide what sports are played and the fact that Rugby has lots of rules and is seen as complicated means it gets missed in many schools, perhaps 7s is a better format to introduce it? Regarding the ****ty inner city school, a few years ago a school not far from me in one of the worst areas in Nottingham (Bulwell if anyone is interested has been on TV a few times) was visited by no less than Jason Leonard because the rugby team had been so successful, this was down entirely to the PE teacher who was RFU coaching qualified and took many hours outside the normal school time training and teaching the boys how to play.

I see an opportunity here for the RFU to get into schools as most of the inner city are becoming privately run academes and if the RFU sponsored some of the PE teachers wages so that Rugby was played more in schools it would perhaps bring more kids into the game who would never have thought about it before...just a thought
<o:p></o:p>
 

powerfulduck

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Agree about a selection of sports but its the local authorities that decide what sports are played and the fact that Rugby has lots of rules and is seen as complicated means it gets missed in many schools, perhaps 7s is a better format to introduce it? Regarding the ****ty inner city school, a few years ago a school not far from me in one of the worst areas in Nottingham (Bulwell if anyone is interested has been on TV a few times) was visited by no less than Jason Leonard because the rugby team had been so successful, this was down entirely to the PE teacher who was RFU coaching qualified and took many hours outside the normal school time training and teaching the boys how to play.

I see an opportunity here for the RFU to get into schools as most of the inner city are becoming privately run academes and if the RFU sponsored some of the PE teachers wages so that Rugby was played more in schools it would perhaps bring more kids into the game who would never have thought about it before...just a thought
<o:p></o>


Yeah exactly this sort of thing is what i'm talking about. I'd change 7's for touch or tag rugby though as the schools can't afford the lawsuits but we need more of this type of thing. I'm fairly sure the touch & tag is played in NZ at school level and this is credited as one of the reasons they are better than us.
 

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Sorry but that is rubbish! When I was a junior playing at Burton (in the 80s) we played clubs from Handsworth, Sutton Coldfield, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Solihull, plus Coventry and Lichfield. The annual tournament was always held in Handsworth and was a massive affair.

Rugby in Birminghams problem is (well its not actually a problem) is that most people who love their rugby are normally playing it on a Saturday or helping out at their local club. This is the real reason why rugby will always struggle to replicate the supporter numbers Soccer does because Rugby is a players game, football is a fans game. Why do the Welsh regions struggle for bums on seats? because on a saturday the vast majority of rugby people are playing for their local club, thats the same in England and the same in the Scottish borders. Players will make an exception if they get tickets for an international but week in week out they only care about their local club, going to watch a game at the region or the bigger club in Northampton is a one in while treat but nothing more.

If this means we can support no more pro teams than we do now then so be it, I wouldnt want more professional clubs at the expense of the grass roots game particulary here in England and certainly wouldnt want to see any more franchise operations coming into the game that have no historic connection to the local area.



I don't really buy this. They also play rugby in London, Leicester, Exeter, you name it. And yet they all can support pro teams.
 

Tallshort

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I don't really buy this. They also play rugby in London, Leicester, Exeter, you name it. And yet they all can support pro teams.

All based on existing clubs with good support, although the "London Clubs" are really franchises who survive only through rich benefactors and investors. The only big team in the Birmingham area during the advent of professionalism was Mosley for whatever reason they didnt manage the transformation and now it would take a massive investment to get it anywhere near AP standards, this could happen because Sarries managed it but it would have a massive risk involved as there is no reason to think more supporters will come and you could end up with a Sarries or a London Welsh.

There are loads of clubs in Birmingham but they are good smaller local clubs and this is where you will find most rugby people on a Saturday.
 

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All based on existing clubs with good support, although the "London Clubs" are really franchises who survive only through rich benefactors and investors. The only big team in the Birmingham area during the advent of professionalism was Mosley for whatever reason they didnt manage the transformation and now it would take a massive investment to get it anywhere near AP standards, this could happen because Sarries managed it but it would have a massive risk involved as there is no reason to think more supporters will come and you could end up with a Sarries or a London Welsh.

There are loads of clubs in Birmingham but they are good smaller local clubs and this is where you will find most rugby people on a Saturday.


Coventry (while not in Birmingham, but you mentioned them in your post) were a big club in the 1990's. Shocking mismanagement has led to their rather tragic demise, but there's an example of an established club showing that there is the potential for a support base. I'm not arguing that serious investment from outside wouldn't be needed, but rather that you can't make the argument that there's no pro rugby in Birmingham because everyone is off playing. People play in all towns where there are clubs.
 

Tallshort

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Coventry (while not in Birmingham, but you mentioned them in your post) were a big club in the 1990's. Shocking mismanagement has led to their rather tragic demise, but there's an example of an established club showing that there is the potential for a support base. I'm not arguing that serious investment from outside wouldn't be needed, but rather that you can't make the argument that there's no pro rugby in Birmingham because everyone is off playing. People play in all towns where there are clubs.

Yeah I do take that point but apart from Exeter I do believe that we will no longer see anymore pro clubs start in the English game because it has taken years and years for sides like Tigers, Sarries, Wasps, Sale etc to build up its fan base. Coventry's problems where underpined by low supporter numbers (something that will effect London Irish one day) and I will continue to say this most rugby people in England/Wales/Scottish borders play on a Saturday or support those smaller clubs. Rugby does not have the mass appeal of football and 1 full time pro league in England is as 'good' as it will get.
 

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Some good posts on this thread.

Would be interested to hear from French members of the forum on how they think the influx of big name (and big money) foreigners in to the Top 14 has affected the French national team.

From a Welsh perspective I think the Sky deal to televise the Pro 12 could be a good thing as virtually all Welsh home games are televised live on BBC 2 Wales and S4C.This should put a few more bums on seats.
 

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Coventry (while not in Birmingham, but you mentioned them in your post) were a big club in the 1990's. Shocking mismanagement has led to their rather tragic demise, but there's an example of an established club showing that there is the potential for a support base. I'm not arguing that serious investment from outside wouldn't be needed, but rather that you can't make the argument that there's no pro rugby in Birmingham because everyone is off playing. People play in all towns where there are clubs.

it's a similar situation with Moseley financial trouble coupled with bad decisions (selling the reddings) has lead to the brink of extinction. Billesley common is not even a championship ground is awful Moseley are trying to improve but it's a long slow painfull process. With regards to franchising it's not my personal preference but success and noterity brings new fans as I mentioned earlier with Worcester. The point about Birmingham I was trying to make was that it's a large urban area and a well marketed financially backed team could gather a support IMO.
 

Tony Manx

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Some good posts on this thread.

Would be interested to hear from French members of the forum on how they think the influx of big name (and big money) foreigners in to the Top 14 has affected the French national team.

.

I feel, and am open to contradiction from a French national on this question, the French are pretty strange on this one....due to the money spent recently they do seem to hate Toulon but have no problem with ASM or Toulouse, although they have had matching or bigger budgets, and will suffer Racing and Stade because "you expect Parisien clubs to have money".....

There are a lot of people that worry about the future of French International rugby with the large number of imports taking important spots in teams but there are limits to the number of imports now that can be in the squad although it does not really interefere too much!

In addition, the reality is that there are more club members who care about their club than the International side and this was confirmed when I asked my neighbour why he was in the garden when a French International game was on. Also when I asked a fellow BO supporter if he thought England had a chance against France last season and he did not even know the match was on!!!
 

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I think in a world where rugby gets mainstream attention and has larger revenues, it could potentially support multiple national leagues and a European one. In the more realistic scenario, I think for Britain at least a lot needs to be done via something like the BBC to increase coverage. It needs a lot more promotion to get people interested and this can be smaller things such as rugby based adverts and inclusion in general sports based summaries.
 

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Like already somepeople said, Super Rugby scheme works fantastic and it's quite competitive and expose the really own potential in a not to strict model cause the Union doesn't have to jump from amteurism into profesonalism 12-15 teams at once.
If Rugby wants to improve, this method could work in several spheres i.e. America, Europe and Asia. 3-5 teams per country sounds more realictic.
 

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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!!

You will have to excuse my late reply, I just changed internet provider and there was a delay.

My comments were supposed to be aimed at everyone, but I understand and agree with what your saying. If they did remove the salary cap and open a 'free market' then a gap would open very quickly leaving only a handful of clubs able to compete. But again I can't see this happening. I know there have been poor decisions in the past but I couldn't see the clubs voting to abolish a cap, as,in reality, this would be financial suicide. But if it ever did, then what your suggesting is a real possibility.

Also, I should clarify that I don't think that the Eastern European leagues could rival the established big three in Europe but I think they will grow, especially if they are included in Europe and do well. I can see the next big spenders being the Americas. g Japan and France will still lead spending but if America back a league then we could see more movement across the Atlantic, maybe next ten plus years. Which could be worrisome, as I would never ever want to see rugby go the way football has. Ruined by money and very rich foreign investors who are more interested in selling shirts in Asia than grass root rugby, home grown players and the values of the sport.

We have seen real progress in rugby, look at previous world cups, were teams like Japan were regularly put to the sword. They now have a professional league and compete in the PNC, done well in the first Test against Wales and had a great RWC, and that is only one example.

However, here is food for thought. What is the future of the Italian domestic league? Could this league ever rise up to compete with the big three? Imagine what would happen to rugby in Italy if they reached a RWC QF, beat the All Blacks or won the 6 nations in the space of a few years? The market and infrastructure is there, and I don't believe that seeing Italy do any of these things is a stretch.
The second thought concerns Argentina. What do we know, for fact, about the development of a professional league there?

I know that they have recently fully contracted all domestic Argentina players with full professional contracts. But how far of can we expect a fully pro league. I believe it's not if but when.
 
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