Premiership chiefs join call for 'global season'

Thu, 25 Aug 2016 15:27
Large premiership 12 captains 800

NEWS: Officials in charge of England's elite Premiership club competition joined the calls for reform of what they say is an "unsustainable" international calendar.

Ever since Rugby Union became a fully professional sport shortly after the 1995 World Cup in South Africa, there has been talk of a 'global season' in a bid to get greater harmony between club and international fixtures.

But with the 15-a-side code traditionally a winter sport in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, all attempts to streamline the match programme have so far foundered, despite often repeated concerns about player welfare and burn-out.

In England and France, two of Europe's leading rugby nations, there is a further complication in that players are contracted to free-standing clubs rather than their national unions.

Yet for large parts of the existing season, those players are away on Test duty, be it the November international campaign or the Six Nations, Europe's premier tournament, which runs from February to March.

However, with the current Test programme expiring after the 2019 World Cup in Japan, there is the possibility for reform especially as World champions New Zealand, an on-field superpower but commercially outgunned by wealthier European nations, have indicated they won't just sign up for more of the same.

Bosses at the Pro12 - the major domestic tournament for leading teams in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy - have put forward a proposal for delaying the start of the Six Nations by six weeks in order to get club seasons completed beforehand.

But the Six Nations have thus far jealously guarded what they see as a prime commercial spot in the overall European sporting calendar given that no major football tournaments are being concluded at the same time.

Their stance has often been regarded as the major barrier to meaningful fixture reform, but Premiership Chief Executive Mark McCafferty insisted change was possible without moving the Six Nations.

"We don't like that particular idea, but we do have some of our own ideas and concepts," said McCafferty, speaking at the launch of the 2016/17 Premiership season at Twickenham on Thursday.

"I think the international season structure is unsustainable as it is at the moment.

"It's coming to a head for sure. We're talking about what happens after the World Cup in Japan in 2019, so we've got to focus a few years out."

He added: "It's very complicated, it's very inter-related, and nobody really can act unilaterally, we've got to do it collaboratively."

While Pro12 officials have talked of adding a United States-based franchise team to their competition, McCafferty is content for the 12-team Premiership to remain an all-English affair.

However, he has not ruled out further matches in America following March's ground-breaking clash between champions Saracens and London Irish in New Jersey.

"We are an English league, that's where our strength is. We've certainly no plans to change," he said.

"We'll look to grow our profile in the States for sure, and we've made a couple of big breakthroughs on that last season.

"It's about gaining profile for the Premiership competition in the States rather than basing any teams there.

"We're just putting together some last-minute details on our fixture in the US for the season. It will be a few weeks before we're able to confirm everything, but it will happen."

Agence France-Presse

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Fri, 15 December 2017
Ulster v Harlequins 19h45 Kingspan Stadium
Sat, 16 December 2017
Montpellier v Glasgow Warriors 13h00 Altrad Stadium
Treviso v Scarlets 13h00 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Leinster v Exeter Chiefs 15h15 Aviva Stadium
Racing Metro v Castres 15h15 Stade Yves-du-Manoir
Bath v Toulon 17h30 Recreation Ground
Sun, 17 December 2017
Wasps v La Rochelle 13h00 Ricoh Arena
Clermont Auvergne v Saracens 15h15 Stade Marcel-Michelin
Ospreys v Northampton Saints 15h15 Liberty Stadium
Leicester Tigers v Munster 17h30 Welford Road
RESULT SCORE
Mon, 11 December 2017
Saracens v Clermont Auvergne 14 | 46
Sun, 10 December 2017
Exeter Chiefs v Leinster 8 | 18
Harlequins v Ulster 5 | 17
La Rochelle v Wasps 49 | 29
Sat, 09 December 2017
Munster v Leicester Tigers 33 | 10
Castres v Racing Metro 16 | 13
Northampton Saints v Ospreys 32 | 43
Toulon v Bath 24 | 20
Scarlets v Treviso 33 | 28
Fri, 08 December 2017
Glasgow Warriors v Montpellier 22 | 29
Sun, 03 December 2017
Harlequins v Saracens 20 | 19
Sat, 02 December 2017
Cheetahs v Scarlets 28 | 21
Munster v Ospreys 36 | 10
Wasps v Leicester Tigers 32 | 25
Treviso v Leinster 10 | 36
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Team P W D L Pts
Exeter Chiefs 10 8 0 2 40
Gloucester 10 7 0 3 32
Saracens 10 6 0 4 31
Bath 10 6 0 4 30
Wasps 10 6 0 4 29
Leicester Tigers 10 6 0 4 28
Harlequins 10 5 0 5 24
Newcastle Falcons 10 5 0 5 24
Sale Sharks 10 4 0 6 23
Northampton Saints 10 4 0 6 22
Worcester Warriors 10 2 0 8 14
London Irish 10 1 0 9 8