A Welsh Solution to a Welsh Problem   6 comments

The Welsh predicament and a “British and Irish League”

We all know that there is uproar in Welsh Rugby that is looking like it might tear the pro game in Wales apart completely. As outsiders with a vested interest, via the shared pro 12 league, this could well affect what is effectively our “domestic” league. This has made those of us in BluesTalk mansions think of various external scenarios that might be explored in search of a solution.

As the “silly season” is drawing to a close this weekend with the first friendly matches taking place. We are running out of time for a completely hare brained scheme that would never work so here goes.

If you ask most disgruntled fans of the Welsh “Regions” what would be their preferred outcome, they would answer with an Anglo Welsh or British and Irish league. They like to hark back to the days of Amateur clubs playing English opposition and filling their grounds etc.etc.

Rather than blame regionalisation or unprofesionalism/bad marketing on behalf of the regions for lack of fans travelling to games they blame the quality of opposition in the pro 12. They feel that playing v English teams week in week out would solve their issues with crowd size.

This piece seeks to indulge these opinions or at least follow them to a few possible logical conclusions.

Before we begin I would ask you to suspend your disbelief on the following issues.

  1. A significant proportion of Welsh rugby fans do not support the “Regions” to begin with, for numerous reasons which we will not go into here
  2.  The Regions are at war with their union, and for any of this to be a runner, the Union would have to be on board.
  3. The “championship” (2nd tier) clubs in England would be up in arms about any possible “ring fencing” of the top tier of Rugby in England. (More on this later*)
  4. The other 3 “home” unions would also have to agree to this.
  5. The premiership and the Pro12 would cease to exist.
  6. Could we trust the PRL? As they would have a large say in any proposed competition.
  7. We would have to square the circle between the independent clubs in England and the Union controlled ones in Ireland and Scotland…… And of course what ever we end up with in Wales.

I’m sure there are many more but that is enough disbelief to suspend for now.

One of the main gripes of the Welsh regional fans is that the Pro12 does not work, as fixtures, referees, citing commissions etc. are too hard to organise among the member unions. Would this be easier? (because the PRL would impose their will on the rest) or harder? (Because we are swapping the Italians for the way more vociferous English)
So. To the possible completion…….

Geography is what sells it to the Welsh as they are close to the like of Bath, Bristol, Gloucester etc. So geography is what we will base it on.

Us Irish have to travel overseas to play anyone else anyway so no change for us.

The Scottish could have some shorter journeys eg Newcastle.

The English would also lose their longer journeys (Newcastle to Exeter anyone?)

Basing it on the current Premiership and the Pro 12, with a couple of teams from the Championship to replace the Italians, I have come up with a 24 team competition based on 3 geographical “conferences”

After 14 rounds of home and away the competition “splits in 2”. Top 4 in each conference in one and bottom 4 in the other.

The top layer qualify for the European cup automatically with the remaining place(s) for the finalists (or perhaps just the champions) in the bottom tier.

You then have 10 free weeks of the current season remaining.

6 weeks of round robin where each team plays 4 teams from another conference and 2 from the remaining one.

1st place teams have 5 home and 1 away game.
2nd place teams have 4 and 2
3rd place teams have 2 and 4
4th place have 1 and 5

NRL style playoffs which take 2 weeks before the semi and final weekends.

QED.

Irish and Northern conference

  • Connacht
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow Warriors
  • Leinster
  • Munster
  • Newcastle Falcons
  • Sale Sharks
  • Ulster

Welsh and Western conference

  • Bath Rugby
  • Bristol
  • Cardiff Blues
  • Exeter Chiefs
  • Gloucester Rugby
  • Newport Gwent Dragons
  • Ospreys
  • Scarlets

London and Midlands conference

  • Harlequins
  • Leicester Tigers
  • London Irish
  • London Welsh
  • Northampton Saints
  • Saracens
  • Wasps
  • Worcester Warriors

*OK I tried to think of a mechanism where the team with the lowest points was relegated to the English championship, but it was too complex as it could be a non English team.

You could have London Welsh’s spot (as the newly promoted team) up for grabs, meaning the promoted team would always play in the London and Midlands conference. This would ensure that it was always an English team.

Told you it was hare brained.

Personally I would not be in favour of any of it, but at least I spent 90 minutes of my time considering it……..

 
John Grainger

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6 responses to “A Welsh Solution to a Welsh Problem

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  1. As possible solutions go, I think your concept has much to recommend it, John. Well done and fair play. Unfortunately it is probably too clever for the likes of Bruce Craig etc. to grasp and as such will never see the light of day. Pity.

  2. Fair play to you for working all of that out, time well spent. It’s a great idea and that’s why it will never work.

    It’s the type of thing that you would only have gotten organised at the very start of the professional game before all the vested interests got involved.

  3. The problem with this is you then ring fence all the great English rivalries. The London and East Midlands derbies are in one pool, and it’s just rediculous to take the four best Premiership teams for the last four years and isolate them from the rest of the league. You’d end up with the same eight teams in play offs, with the midlands/London having the widest variation. I can’t see this working unfortunately.
    I agree something should be done, but a B&I league would need to be way more flexible. Anglowelsh could work, but the regions may have to settle for being relegated

    • Hey Luke
      Is it not just as ridiculous to have the top 4 pro12 sides in the same group too?

      I’m not putting this forward as a solution to anything. Just a conversation piece, and following (mainly Welsh in fairness) calls for a B&I league to some kind of logical conclusion based on geography.

      I think it would be worse for everyone including the Welsh. The English have a decent and functioning league. Not much in it for them to include the Welsh.

      The Pro12 is pretty good considering it’s relative youth and the fact that 4 nations take a full set of internationals out of it during AIs and 6N.

      It could be much better if all the Clubs/Provinces/Regions/Unions worked together on it.

  4. Its a great concept, I know something similar was floated during the whole Euro arguement, but there are just too many vested interests that simply won’t go for it!
    (http://www.rugbyworld.com/tournaments/heineken-cup/europe-we-have-the-answer/)

  5. The only issue are have with this is then the European Cup just becomes the league plus the French. Oh and the odd Italian.

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