Monday, 6 January 2014

The Total Flanker Guide to: European Club Rugby 2014

I have given this particular post a somewhat grand title. It is, of course, nothing of the sort, merely an attempt to work out what the heck is going on with the various shenanigans affecting currently cross-border club rugby in Europe.

So here goes…

1.      Once upon a time there was a lovely, successful European Cup competition, sponsored by a well-known beer brand and presided over by European Rugby Cup Ltd (ERC). 

2.       All was not rosy in the garden, however, and it came to pass that the English and French teams shouted "IT'S NOT FAIR" that they had to qualify for the competition while their Celtic and Italian counterparts qualified automatically. The English and French teams also declared "IT'S NOT FAIR" that they weren't being paid their fair share of the money generated by the competition. 

3.       With their complaints falling on deaf ears at ERC, the English and French clubs – as they were perfectly entitled to do – thought "sod this for a game of soldiers" and served 2 years notice on ERC of their intention to quit the competition at the end of the 2013/14 season. 

4.       With ERC still putting their fingers in their ears and singing "LA LA LA" rather loudly, the English Clubs then signed a megabucks deal with BT Sport to broadcast domestic English rugby and a new European Rugby Champions Cup, expected initially to comprise teams from England and France. 

5.       ERC then decided that if they pretended hard enough that there was no problem then it would probably go away and announced a new European rugby deal with Sky Sports to include the English and French clubs. 

6.       After various toys were thrown from various prams and finally some belated concessions by ERC, the French clubs appeared to wave the white flag whilst munching on some camembert and agreed to play one final season of European rugby under the auspices of ERC. This was on the condition that English clubs would also be allowed to play and that the French could organise their own FIRA-led competition the following season.  

7.       The English clubs then confirmed that hell would freeze over before they would take part in any competition run by those eejits at ERC. 

Are you still with me? 

8.       The RFU then appeared out of left field and - despite having not been invited - gate-crashed the party with a proposal that a European competition be run by the Six Nations Committee rather than ERC. Common sense almost prevailed as the idea gained support but it was largely scuppered by the French on the basis that they hadn't thought of it in the first place. 

9.       Feeling a little left out, the Welsh then decided to declare civil war. The Welsh regions decided to refuse to sign a new co-operation agreement with the WRU, shouting "IT'S NOT FAIR" that the WRU were not competent enough to negotiate a decent financial deal from the ERC run competition. 

10.   Instead the Welsh regions decided to really get up the WRU's noses by saying that wanted to play against the English clubs – either in the proposed Champions Cup (with or without French participation) or in an expanded Aviva Premiership (much to the dismay of the teams in England’s second tier who yelled "IT'S NOT FAIR" that their access to the Premiership might potentially be blocked by the Welsh). 

11.   Not to be outdone the WRU appear to have decided stick two fingers up at the regions by threatening to contract leading Welsh players centrally and, depending on which rumour one believes, either form new professional teams in Wales or, bizarrely (and somewhat ironically), loan out their star players to English Premiership clubs! 

All of which leaves the future of European club rugby about as clear as as a very cloudy pint of mud.
Any questions?

1 comment:

Peter Franklin said...

Before I read this I was confused. Having read this it's sorted things out nicely. I now know exactly why I'm so confused.