Redesign, Rebuild, Reclaim.

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It’s the current Motto/Tag Line of Seth Rollins following his return from serious injury to WWE. It feels rather apt for me right now too and certainly this little corner of the internet I like to call my own.

The motto should have been apt purely for the Radio station. I’d started working on getting it back up. Then I discovered that Radionomy had pulled the advertising revenue sharing services from the Non-French based areas that were covered previously. That meant that I’d have to put an awful lot of extra effort into growing audience share to keep it active, for little to know real gain beyond a personal hobby.

Around the same time, things got a bit crazy in my life, what with the Euros and all that, but the bigger thing was me moving to London. After close to 9 years with my previous company, I’d successfully applied for a job working in Central London.

So now, that motto fits whats going on with me right now. New home, New city, New job. It’s been crazy and it’s been 6 weeks so far. We shall see how it all goes and hopefully the blog will now become a regular thing. It’s something I’ve always struggled to maintain, but with so much more going on right now, I feel I really do need to document it all.

An alternative solution for European Rugby.

So, I know I’ve not followed through with a regular blog, but maybe today’s news will change that. Today, “Premiership Rugby” which represents the English Premier League clubs announced that both they & the French clubs would not be agreeing to a new deal to participate in the Heineken & Amlin cups next season. This had been on the cards for some time but it was hoped that this could be averted.

They have been rather generous & advised that they will be creating their own new competition & any of the other nations are welcome to join. Jolly nice of them you might think, but then you remember that this would be on their terms & the English clubs in particular have made it clear they want a bigger slice of the pie with the Pro12 clubs being the ones to miss out.

The “solution” won’t work. It’ll be a bodge & it won’t answer many of the real concerns that need addressing. Whether it be interest from supporters, the amount of fixtures or any number of the little moans & complaints that every individual Union regularly has. What is required is a radical change. To move away from convention & take a leap of faith into the unknown.

I have, what I believe is a solution that is certainly “out there” & I have been saying this to anybody that would be prepared to listen. Why do I care this much? Because without a viable European competition, Welsh Club rugby is effectively dead. I will admit that it is my own desire to see it thrive that prompts me to look at solutions.

Before I address my suggestion. I should first run over what I felt were the key requirements:

  • Create a viable product that would interest TV companies.
  • To keep the English & French clubs happy.
  • To ensure the viability of all existing Celtic League clubs.
  • To reduce the number of games.
  • To ensure the best players play as much as possible.
  • To ensure Rugby continues to develop & grow.

With those in mind. I looked at various sports leagues & every time, I would return to the NFL & their structure. It’s a reasonable thing to do. They have a very physical sport & try to limit the amount of games to protect their players while still presenting a viable product. So, if I’m going to go down the NFL path, it would likely need to be a closed shop. If that is going to happen, then we have to take into consideration all clubs that would be involved. If this structure is to replace both the Top Tier Domestic Rugby & European Competitions, we need to find something that keeps everybody happy.

The NFL is made up of 32 teams. If we include all 12 Celtic League clubs, then that leaves 10 English & 10 French clubs for entry into the competition. That simply is non-starter. They are never going to accept this. So we need to look at a larger competition. 4 teams per division feels the best fit in terms of a solution, particularly if we are to ensure that derby games are maintained.

We then need to acknowledge that we have to go up in multiples of 8 if we are to balance the system. Additionally, we also need to acknowledge that if we are to balance the divisions to maintain those derby games stay in place that 40 teams may not cut it & that a 48 team competition therefore becomes the most viable.

Working with a 48 team competition. We would then split them into 2 “Conferences” of 6 Divisions.

The Regular season would be structured as follows:

  1. Home & Away games vs All teams in your 4 Team Division.
  2. Home or Away games vs All teams in another Division in your Conference.
  3. Home or Away games vs All teams in a Division in the other Conference
  4. Home or Away games vs Teams who finished in your Position the previous season in other divisions in your conference.

This would break down like so:

  1. 6 Games in total.
  2. 4 Games in total with 2 home & 2 away games with the Division rotating each season.
  3. 4 Games in total with 2 home & 2 away games with the Division rotating each season.
  4. 4 Games in total with 2 home & 2 away games with the Divisions rotating each season.

This would create an 18 game “Regular season”.

From here, a Play-off system would be put in place, with the 12 Division winners + the 4 teams with the highest points qualifying for the Play-Offs. The Play-Offs would be seeded based on an overall Points total for the first round, but drawn randomly from that point forward. This would add between 1-4 games for 16 sides depending on how far they progressed in the Play-Offs.

The Play-Offs would obviously work as follows:

  1. Round of 16
  2. Quarter Final
  3. Semi Final
  4. Final

If we’ve settled on the structure, we then need to look at how to structure the Divisions. As with the NFL, to avoid stacking each Conference in certain areas, I’ve attempted to balance the teams across each of them. We then need to decide whether the system should be closed to the Top 6 Nations or to include developing nations. As this would be a sporting politics argument I’d not even want to start to get into if I were to get this thing published tonight, I’ve come up with 2 starting options with suggestions on how discussions could take place to change things.

As you will see, both are rather generous to the English & French clubs & provides them with far greater representation than either currently sees in their own domestic competitions: 

Option 1 – Top 6 European Nations only.

18 French
18 English
4 Welsh
4 Irish
2 Scottish
2 Italian

*An alternative option would be to increase the number of Scottish/Italian clubs & reducing the number of English/French clubs accordingly – i.e. if 1 additional Scottish Club, then 1 Less English club while 1 additional Italian club would mean 1 less French club.

Division 1
Wales
Scotland/England
England 2
France 3
France 4
France 5

Division 2
Ireland
England 3
England 4
England 5
France/Italy
France 2

Option 2 – Including “super clubs” from Lower Tier Nations.

16 French
14 English
4 Welsh
4 Irish
2 Scottish
2 Italian
*2 Romanian
*2 Spanish
*2 Portuguese

*Alternative options to include more 2nd tier nations & their own super clubs possible.

Division 1
Wales
Scotland/England
England 2
France 3
France 4
Southern Europe

Division 2
Ireland
England 3
England 4
France 1
France 2
Eastern Europe (Including Italian clubs)

While I know there may be some imbalance involved in some divisions. This would be a starting point & if we were to see equal distribution of wealth, it would allow teams in those supposed under strength divisions to grow over time. Additionally, by rewarding 4 high points scorers with a Play Off place, it helps ensure that those in strong divisions are rewarded when they perform well every season.

With this kind of  structure, you can also ensure that you have both local & national Television deals which would be greatly beneficial to all clubs involved.

It’s not perfect, no solution will be. But for me, this gives far more potential for growth of the sport while also answering the complaints that come from all involved. I could spend more time on this I know, but then maybe that over complicates things. Will the Unions go for this? Doubtful. Would the fans love to see a competition like this? I’m pretty damned sure that they would.

A quick note: The amount of games is low to ensure that the top players are available as much as possible rather than the current situation of  teams often fielding second string sides. This will hopefully help prevent the top clubs hoarding the top players & spreading the talent more evenly. If this is to happen, of course the development system for younger players also needs to have a major improvement, maybe with a Development competition along the same structure, limiting the amount of over aged players allowed to be involved.