21 Sep 2012

BT Vision's proposed breakaway plunges European Rugby into chaos

Digested the news yet? Rugby in Europe may be booming like never before, but it could be about to experience the greatest single sporting revolution since Kerry Packer's sojourn into World Series Cricket in the mid 1970's; an upheaval which changed the way the Gentleman's game was played forever..

I'm not talking about rugby players wearing multi-coloured pyjamas as was the case back then. Parisien club Stade Francais have that covered already! This rugby revolution has potentially very far reaching consequences, especially for the Celts.

If you haven't heard yet, Premiership Rugby agreed an astonishing £152 million contract with BT Vision last week, securing rights to broadcast English domestic rugby matches, in addition to European matches involving English clubs from the 2014-15 season onwards.

By that time, the current agreement governing continental competition will have expired, paving the way for a potential restructuring of the European game or a 'new dazzling European tournament' as was described by BT Vision's Chief Executive Marc Watson.

Confusingly though, the announcement came just a few hours before European Cup Rugby (ERC) also revealed a four year extension with Sky TV, who currently showcase Europe's premier rugby competition; the Heineken Cup.

The disputed deal with BT Vision has therefore resulted in English clubs standing accused of 'breaching global rugby regulations', displaying brazen arrogance and plunging the European game into both chaos and open warfare over broadcasting rights.

This week, Welsh online sporting retailers; Shop Rugby, give us their view on the announcement.

The Heineken Cup – But not as we know it

Sports pages on the continent have been bristling of late, while the airwaves have been filled with both optimistic and disgruntled fans (depending on the region), following the news of a potential restructuring of the European rugby scene.

On the surface the decision seems to be a question of simple economics.

The tournament’s organisers, European Rugby Cup Ltd, will have to choose between a four-year, £70m deal with Sky, which would start from the 2014-15 season, or a deal from BT Vision worth more than 50 per cent more.

Whether the BT deal is good for the game is unclear. Existing broadcasters, Sky, already have a massive viewership and BT could suffer the same problems ITV's Irish broadcasters Setanta did in the previous decade, in luring customers to fork out extra dosh to watch the live games, when many already have a SKY/ESPN subscription.

Money as we all know though, talks. So it is no surprise to see the BT Vision proposal accepted by Premiership rugby executives.

Adding fuel to the fires of change has been much wrangling from an Anglo-French alliance, unhappy with perceived advantages arguably lesser clubs in the RabboDirect Pro 12 currently enjoy qualifying for Europe’s top table.

Currently 24 teams from six countries compete in the Heineken Cup, consisting of six teams from England and France, three teams from Wales and Ireland and two teams from Scotland and Italy.

Weaker sides such as Italian outfit, Treviso, have an unfair advantage according to Premiership Rugby.

While this may sound favourable to the English and French, the main bone of contention is that whilst they must endure a long, hard season to ensure qualification for the HC (or indeed avoid relegation domestically) through good performance in their domestic league and cup competitions, the two teams from Scotland and Italy for example are able to finish in the bottom four of the RabboDirect Pro 12 (their domestic league competition), avoid relegation and still qualify for the Heineken Cup!

The French and English teams do seem to have a justifiable argument there. The tournament appears lopsided and perhaps recent statistics speak for themselves.

Five of the last seven finals have been won by either Leinster or Munster (both Celtic clubs). Many believe that their ability to rest top players in the lead-up to big knockout games has given them an edge.

Prior to the glory years, nine of the 10 winners of the competition had either come from English or French shores too.

One could argue though that perhaps the English and French need to get their own house in order, rather than punish those who are thriving due to a quality domestic set-up.

Celtic nations have acknowledged that qualification is currently unfairly stacked in favour of the sides competing in the Pro 12, but a more diplomatic resolution would be more respected.

The power base of European rugby ultimately lies in France and England though, with some of their club sides, particularly the French, boasting an embarrassment of riches. A large proportion of the money earned through TV deals comes from English and French audiences.

One suspects whichever way the French lean may sway the whole process. Thus far, although they have conceded that they share similar grievances to the English Premiership clubs, they have not come out in support of a fully fledged break-away tournament

As in professional sport the world over though, money talks and it is the view of many in the game that the current qualification structure undermines European rugby’s premier club tournament, with strong teams from the France and England omitted in favour of weaker teams like Zebre and Benetton Treviso from Italy.

This disparity has led to the announcement of a poropsed withdrawal of French and English teams from both the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cups if there is no change to the qualification process by the time the current television deal expires in 2014.

Watch this space. Further talks are due in Rome on 8 October, but all those who love the game at this level will be dearly hoping a resolution can be sought.

 What are your thoughts on the deal? Do you want to see changes or are you happy with the current format?

 Author: Shop Rugby is a leading online sports retailer and Wales’ first specialist rugby shop. For great prices, all the latest kits and rugby equipment for men, women and children, pop along to our website.


  1. Great article Rachel.

    I think everyone would like to see a diplomatic resolution as we all want a truly European competition. Having an Anglo/French break-away would be a great shame.

    Personally I think there is room to slightly re-format the tournament in terms of qualification. Premiership Rugby seem to have been a little heavy handed in their approach though, and as an Englishman, I hope it doesn't backfire.

  2. "Currently 24 teams from six countries compete in the Heineken Cup, consisting of six teams from England and France, three teams from Wales and Ireland and two teams from Scotland and Italy. "

    6 From England
    6 From France
    3 from Wales
    3 from Ireland
    2 from Scotland
    2 from Italy

    Maths is hard, but I only make that 22 :)

    1. Actually it's factually correct.

      22 places are awarded by country.

      The remaining two places are awarded to the winner of the Heineken cup and European Challenge Cup.

      "If a trophy winner has already qualified for the Heineken Cup by virtue of its league position, that country will receive an extra Heineken Cup place (assuming that the country has an extra team that can take up a place; Scotland has only two top-level professional teams, as does Italy since the 2010–11 season).

      However, England and France are capped at seven Heineken Cup places each. If either country produces the winners of both European cups, the last place will be filled by the highest ERC-ranked club not of that nation to not have otherwise qualified.

      The latter rule also applies if one of Scotland's two Pro 12 teams wins a European trophy. London Wasps could have benefited if either Clermont or Edinburgh had won the 2011–12 Heineken Cup, but both those clubs lost in the semi-finals, ending Wasps' hopes of a Heineken Cup lifeline."

  3. Given that 5 of the last 7 winners have come from the Rabo league, it seems astonishing that they are the ones being squeezed. particularly when you also consider that Ireland and Wales have favourable records in the 6Ns compared to the English and French.
    I haven't seen any rational explanation for the cut in teams either

    1. One argument is that by allowing 'weaker' sides to automatically qualify, the pools in which those teams sit are easier, and have a much increased likelihood of containing one of the best loser slots, skewing progression somewhat.

  4. Anonymous15 May, 2013

    I have read several excellent stuff here. Certainly
    worth bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how much effort you place to
    create this type of great informative web site.

    Here is my site - Converse

  5. Anonymous19 May, 2013

    hi!,I love your writing so a lot! proportion we be in contact more approximately
    your post on AOL? I require an expert in this house to
    solve my problem. May be that's you! Looking ahead to see you.

    My weblog :: Air Jordan

  6. Anonymous19 May, 2013

    What a material of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious knowledge on the topic of unpredicted emotions.

    Feel free to visit my web blog - Abercrombie France

  7. Anonymous24 May, 2013

    I think that is among the so much vital information for me.
    And i am happy reading your article. However wanna remark on few
    general things, The web site taste is perfect, the articles is in point of fact great :
    D. Just right process, cheers

    Here is my weblog: wealthwayonline.com

  8. Anonymous25 May, 2013

    I'm not sure where you are getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for wonderful information I was looking for this information for my mission.

    my site - Chaussure Air Max

  9. Anonymous27 May, 2013

    Hi, i think that i saw you visited my blog so i came to “return the favor”.
    I'm attempting to find things to enhance my site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

    my web site :: Sidney Crosby Jersey

  10. Anonymous29 May, 2013

    I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I am not sure whether this
    post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble.
    You are wonderful! Thanks!

    Feel free to visit my webpage ... Louis Vuitton Outlet

  11. Anonymous01 June, 2013

    If some one wishes to be updated with most up-to-date technologies
    then he must be pay a quick visit this website and be up to date daily.

    My web-site; Chaussures De Football

  12. Anonymous02 June, 2013

    Yes! Finally someone writes about biosphere.

    Feel free to visit my web site; Sac Louis Vuitton Pas Cher

  13. Anonymous03 June, 2013

    I really like it when individuals come together and share thoughts.
    Great site, keep it up!

    Check out my blog post :: Christian Louboutin Heels

  14. Anonymous04 June, 2013

    It's going to be finish of mine day, however before ending I am reading this enormous article to improve my know-how.

    Feel free to surf to my web blog - Louis Vuitton Outlet

  15. Anonymous05 June, 2013

    It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy.

    I've read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you few interesting things or tips. Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article. I desire to read even more things about it!

    Feel free to surf to my web page ... Read More

  16. Anonymous05 June, 2013

    I relish, lead to I discovered exactly what I was looking for.
    You've ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

    Look into my website: helpful resources

  17. Anonymous06 June, 2013

    Howdy! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick
    shout out and say I really enjoy reading your articles. Can you
    suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the
    same topics? Thank you so much!

    Also visit my webpage :: Sac Louis Vuitton Pas Cher

  18. Anonymous09 June, 2013

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on flavored olive oil.


    Here is my blog :: boutique air jordan

  19. Anonymous10 June, 2013

    Hi there to every , for the reason that I am actually eager of reading this weblog's post to be updated regularly. It includes fastidious stuff.

    Also visit my site ... Nike Air Max :: ::

  20. Anonymous11 June, 2013

    Good day! This post couldn't be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

    my blog post - Nike Air Max

  21. Anonymous11 June, 2013

    Why viewers still make use of to read news papers when in this technological world
    all is available on web?

    Also visit my web-site: Nike Blazers High

  22. Anonymous13 June, 2013

    We stumbled over here coming from a different web address and thought I might check things out.
    I like what I see so now i'm following you. Look forward to looking over your web page repeatedly.

    Review my weblog :: LeBron James Shoes (nysacpr.org)

  23. Anonymous14 June, 2013

    Wonderful goods from you, man. I've understand your stuff previous to and you're just extremely wonderful.
    I actually like what you have acquired here, really like what
    you're stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it wise. I can not wait to read far more from you. This is really a great web site.

    Check out my web page :: nfl wholesale jerseys

  24. Anonymous17 June, 2013

    Howdy! I'm at work browsing your blog from my new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the superb work!

    Also visit my webpage: Michael Kors Outlet

  25. Howdy I am so delighted I found your blog, I really found you by error, while I was researching on Aol for something else, Nonetheless I am here
    now and would just like to say thanks for a remarkable post
    and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design), I don't have
    time to go through it all at the moment but I have book-marked
    it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be
    back to read more, Please do keep up the excellent work.

    my weblog :: แทงบอลออนไลน์ ได้เงินชัวร์

  26. ผมชอบผลงานคุณ http://sbobet8000.com/

  27. In line Coach Outlet Online is bringing Michael Kors Outlet unique Coach Factory Outlet to a Toms Shoes USA shoe for Cheap Jerseys Spring/Michael Kors Outlet 2014 Coach Factory Outlet, and this Coach Outlet, it's a Coach Outlet. The Coach Outlet Sale Sandal Giuseppe Zanotti Outlet.Supermodel mom Coach Factory Outlet was Coach Factory Outlet Online being all kinds of hot this weekend Coach Outlet she Coach Store Online out in a Michael Kors Outlet-turning, Celine Outlet I did, I was Celine Bags possessed by Fitflops Flipflops suit madness.Fitflops USA-there string Michael Kors during Michael Kors Store vacation in Tomss Hoes Bahamas. Fitflop Footwear by her family, the 40-year-old looked happy and relaxed - Fitflops Outlet, uh, did we Fitflops Sandals super hot? - as she Giuseppe Zanotti by the pool.I've Giuseppe Zanotti Designer making my own vanilla extract for years. I love it! It's cost-effective, and in my opinion, Vanilla extract is also (easily) the most used extract in my Prada Outlet , sort of pretty (although it kind of looks like spiders too) tastes way better than imitation vanilla extract.