Saturday, 26 April 2014

Premiership Rugby: Do as I say not as I do

In the recent European dispute Premiership Rugby were very keen on a meritocracy.  The idea of Italians, Scots and Irish just waltzing in was offensive to every right thinking Englishman who had to shed blood over 22 to get the privilege.  

Unequal funding was wrong.  Why should the Celtic unions receive the lion’s share just because they were there in the beginning?  We all compete, we all contribute, why shouldn’t we all receive the same slice of the pie? 

And they were right.  And they won.
Which surely begs the question of why isn’t Premiership Rugby run on the same lines?

Do we have simple meritocratic funding?  No!  Premiership Rugby runs on a complex structure involving 4 different kinds of shares.  We have A shares, B shares, P (Capital) shares and P (income) shares.  The P shares can be bought and sold, the A shares are earned by promotion and the B shares earned after each year in the Premiership.

This means that to gain the same share of the Premiership’s revenue a promoted club must purchase a relegated club’s P shares; Exeter were reported to have paid £5m for Leeds’ P shares.  Money promptly lost to the game as Leeds’ rugby league masters drained them dry.

It also means that last season London Welsh were unable to secure a fair share of revenue as they only possessed the A shares + one seasons worth of B shares, whilst Bristol who had been out of the league for 4 years still owned their P shares and Newcastle still received a full slice of Premiership Rugby revenue.

These unequal conditions are making the Premiership stale.  The last ten years has seen only 15 sides feature in the Premiership compared to 26 different clubs in the Top 14.  This access to the top level and the oxygen of publicity is a key reason why French 2nd tier rugby is more popular.  Promotion is a realistic for the vast majority of sides and once you are there you are treated as equal.

This season’s best supported French club is almost sure to be Bordeaux in only their 3rd season in the Top 14, Racing are constructing a 31,000 capacity stadium but are in only their 5th season since promotion. 

Instead of this complex structure surely designed by a bastard cross breed of an Account and a Solicitor why don’t we opt for simplicity and meritocracy?  Basic funding topped up with English Qualified Player payments, compensation for TV forced fixture changes and a small £10k prize fund per finishing place.
Teams are rewarded based on what they achieve now not what they achieved in 1997.

In the European debate Premiership Rugby rightly argued that being around at the beginning shouldn’t protect you forever.  When will they take a look closer to home?

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