Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


You Can Stick Yer Heineken Cup Up Yer…

Glasgow vs Cardiff scrum - pic © Al Ross
Glasgow vs Cardiff scrum - pic © Al Ross

“They bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into… I say let ‘em crash.” This is probably one of my favourite lines from the movie Airplane and it popped into my head as I ploughed through articles about the proposed Anglo/French cup competition.

There’s a lot of money swilling around the Top 14 and pressure from within the English Premiership to increase salary caps to allow them to compete. It’s not difficult to see why teams from both sides of the channel continue to press ahead with a new competition that vastly increases financial benefits for their individual teams.

There is an invitation for Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Italian clubs to join but, with the exception of the Welsh other teams are restricted by involvement from their individual unions. The financial incentive for Celtic and Italian teams to join the new competition also seem negligible.

The announcement could be interpreted as sabre rattling in advance of a meeting of European Rugby’s board today. An attempt to get some movement in stalled talks over the future of the Heineken Cup. However the French and English teams seem to be labouring under the impression that they are holding all the cards. Whilst it might be a bold move there is an argument to be made for Celtic teams to stick two fingers in their direction and simply walk away.

It’s clear the Top 14 and Premiership are on course for a big financial expansion but at what cost? You only have to look at the English Premiership to see damage money and foreign signings has caused to the quality of the national team. Indeed the blame for the Scottish Premiership’s obliteration lies mainly with the pursuit of TV money.

Already in France there are signs that money and foreign singings which have poured into the Top 14 have had a detrimental impact on the performance and quality of the national team. The same might not yet be true in England but if they are looking across the Channel for competition the removal or lifting of the salary cap can’t be far away.

There is nothing to stop Celtic and Italian unions from starting up their own knockout cup competition to run alongside the regular league. This would increase the number of games and therefore the number of opportunities to give development players more game time. In fact why stick to one cup competition? Why not run a under-21s cup and a club cup and sever all ties with English and French leagues at all levels.

Of course this will always be about money but purely focussing on financial considerations and the lure of TV revenue never ends well. Just ask the Bradford Bulls or Oldham or any number of clubs in Rupert Murdoch’s Super League. Mo’ money; mo’ problems. German football, on the other hand, continues to flourish with clubs offering cheap season tickets and investing in young players.

One thing the French and English teams have right is the need to start with a blank sheet of paper. However there is no reason for Celtic and Italian unions to unpack their pencil cases at the same table.

6 Responses

  1. The English are always whingeing about salary caps but that up to there own union they then made that as a excuse two seasons ago for not getting into the quarter finals of the cup then started to format this breakaway with the French clubs but my understanding is the ffr still want to be involved in the comp and the French clubs have to do what the ffr say .
    and the figures been mentioned by the English don’t add up and haven’t shown anyone this bt contract so the other unions are blind to what is actually on offer to them if changes do happen but it is all about money for the English they want more than anyone else of the pie

  2. It’s a great competition from an Irish perspective as it’s the one they concentrate on and do very well at. But the domestic league in England is as important here and I don’t see any benefit in our staying from anyone’s perspective. Talking to Celtic supporters we “pollute” the HC with our inferior rugby and that the Rabo is a superior product. It make me sick to my stomach now that those same fans are complaining that we are leaving. We can’t win by staying or by leaving – its pure Anglophobia either way. By your own logic you should be pleased we’re leaving!

  3. Jesus wept, why is there a little Englander found in every corner of the internet? Also, is there a people on earth who feel so persecuted with so little reason to?

  4. The new BTSport Euro deal gives each League £24M split equally between 12-14 clubs. Or if you take the view of the Celtic Unions, thats £24M for England and France; and £6M each for Scot, Ire, Wales and Italy.

    So in Scotland’s view, £3M each for Glasgow and Edinburgh isnt too bad. For Ireland and Wales, their 4 regions are so happy. Of course BTSport sponsoring GLA & EDN wont be a coincidence either..

    Qualification to the HCup on Merit? I agree. It will make the Pro12 more competitive and will focus the minds on the ProClubs. It will give our National players that killer winning instinct that Im not sure is there yet.

    The downside is that, if it all goes horribly wrong on the pitch, no Scottish (or Irish or Welsh) team will qualify for the HCup. The upside? The Amlin Cup will get a revamp and will not be that mickey mouse competition it is now. The Winners get qualification into the HCup; this makes it worth winning. Based on last season’s league fixtures, Edinburgh would be in a comp with Wasps, Bath, Perpignan, Stade Francais and Biarittz!! Hardly second tier

    Granted the Amlin Final needs to be held at a bigger stadium; either an International ground or football stadium. Then we not only have two Euro competitions worth watching, we will have 3 leagues also worth watching.

    Just do it SRU! I dont want to watch the Pro12 league and a Pro12 Cup. Yawn. Whats the point?
    I also dont want to watch an Anglo-League. Boring.

  5. Think you have hit the nail on the head this banging the drum about any European competition being a meritocracy is all a smoke screen for the English and French clubs getting a bigger slice of the pie i.e. more money.

    But something needs to be done about the Celtic League to prevent teams, dare I say such as Edinburgh, who know they do not need to bust a ball in the league in order to qualify for top flight European rugby and receive a pay day unlike the English and French clubs. I think last season in the Avia Premiership every team had something to mathematically to play for on the final day whether it was relegation, play off places, home semis or European places. It makes an alleged inferior product rather more interesting in the final weeks of the regular season.

    The Celtic clubs cannot expect to have their cake and eat it for essentially free.

    Possibly another argument for a third Scottish Pro side based in the north. (Wonder if I can crowbar that idea into every post I write)

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion