After months of rumours and unrest, Celtic Rugby have finally confirmed that as of the 2017/18 season, the Guinness Pro12 will be expanded to become the Guinness Pro14. Recently cut Super Rugby sides the Cheetahs and Southern Kings will join the competition, ensuring their survival and bringing much needed, fresh revenue streams to the league.
How it will work
The Guinness Pro14 will be made up of two conferences, with equal numbers of teams from each participating Nation. There will be 12 intra-conference games, 7 inter-conference games and two derbies to make up the standard season’s fixture list. Luckily for us, the system doesn’t seem to be quite as complicated as the Super Rugby conferences have been. However, rather than try and explain it fully myself, here’s the Pro14’s video explaining everything you need to know about the format of the league.
-Two conferences, based on previous season ranking.
-SA teams will not qualify for Europe.
– The system will see an introduction of Quarter Finals to the league.
Why have PRO12 decided to expand to South Africa?
To put it plainly, money. That is the main driver for this move, but that’s no bad thing. For all those who love to criticise the PRO12/14, in a single move they have managed to double the TV pot of the league. The figures below show how the European leagues lined up financially before the expansion:
TOP14: £76m per season (deal starting 2019)
Aviva Premiership: £38m per season
Guinness PRO12: £12m per season
The PRO14 is reported to now generate £24m per season, with the current TV deals with original PRO12 broadcasters up for renewal at the end of the coming season. With finances being one of the largest problems for the league, it is entirely understandable why the decision for expansion has been taken.
Super Rugby Cull
With Super Rugby deciding to cut the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings from their league, this has provided an opportunity for the SARU to keep the sides running, but also provides them with keys to Europe. With wages in pounds and Euros often more desirable for South African players, this gives them a chance to get noticed in the northern hemisphere and potentially secure themselves more lucrative wages, whether that’s in a European PRO14 franchise, in England or France. It could also potentially attract more South African internationals to the two former Super Rugby franchises. The move has been largely met with positivity down south.
For the newcomers, the time zone is a positive, especially when compared with Super Rugby. Despite the long travel to Europe, the time zone is only an hour in difference, compared to far more for Super Rugby games in Argentina, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Furthermore, the PRO14 have promised to give ample recovery time for sides hopping continent, ensuring they have at least 5 ‘clean days’- IE 5 days in which they’re not travelling before each game.
Personally, I see this as a positive move. That’s not to say there aren’t potential troubles and controversies ahead, but with the league financially so far behind, this step is a massive move in the right direction- get it right and it could be a terrific championship- get it wrong and we could see the once Celtic Rugby league completely fall apart.
As a fan, the league is already expensive regarding away games- so for me (despite the massive price difference SA presents) away games are virtually a no go anyway. A couple more games I can’t get to in a season isn’t going to make me drop all interest in the league like some ‘fans’ are suggesting.
At this stage, something needed to be done to try and bridge the gap between the PRO12 and its European rivals and this expansion is the kind of shake up that is needed- I just hope, for all parties’ sake, that the Guinness Pro14 is a success. Here’s to an exciting new season in the PRO14.
The Scribbler, August 1st, 2017.
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