So now we have to wait until the New Year before any solution is found for the great Rugby melt down. Whilst this is happening the whole of professional rugby in Wales is collapsing before our eyes and there doesn’t seem to be anything anyone is doing about it. We have been through this before in the 1990’s when the Unions tried to keep control of the new professional set up and failed, at least in England and a lesser extent in France.
The view from Ireland is fascinating. The clear villain of the peace is the English and especially the English premiership rugby which are seen as wanting to destroy the status quo and with it much of the rationale for professional rugby in Ireland. There is a kernel of truth in this in the sense that the English clubs want to maximise their earnings, which means destroying the financial structures that under pin professional Irish Rugby.
The view from Wales is totally confusing. If the meeting with the regional supporters is to be believed the Welsh RFU don’t seem to understand that the regions are not going to sign the agreement by the 31st of December to continue to be part of the Pro12 and Heineken Cup. The Union might be right and this is just brinkmanship on the part of the regions but if it is not then professional rugby in Wales will very quickly collapse without the English coming to the rescue. Now there is a very politically charged statement for you but it is the cold hard truth. The English clubs, along with their French counterparts, can afford to sit things out – the Welsh, Irish and Scots can’t.
I guess the outcome of all this is that the Heineken Cup will go ahead next year, without the English, and all the parties who take part will try and pretend that it has been a great sucess. That is until the viewing figures are examined and it will be shown to be a disaster – especially if an Anglo Welsh tournament is arranged to replace the missing European games for the English and Welsh teams, which of course would be sponsored by BT. What a horrible mess that would produce.
As Canute discovered all those years ago you can’t fight the primeval forces of life (a bit of a mixed metaphor I know). Once BT saw rugby as their way of attacking Sky Sport’s cosy hegemony of the pay sports market then this mess was bound to happen. The respective Unions always try and protect the status quo without any real power to do so, as I guess will be shortly proven to be the case when the Welsh regions sue the Welsh RFU for restriction of trade. The problem with this is that one union, the English, is richer than the others put together and have embraced life without too much control over their professional clubs. When this happens it doesn’t take long before the whole thing collapses. It would have been nice if the home unions had woken up to this fact and not tried pretend it wasn’t happening. Unfortunately they didn’t and so we have this sorry mess.