Yesterday’s launch of the European rugby campaigns for the Pro14 participants was actually the fourth of what was to have been the brave new dawn under the new tournament organisers, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR).
After the successful bully-boy tactics of the English and French clubs, under the guise of Premiership Rugby (PRL) and Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR), we were promised a new organisational model, in tandem with a revised format, to reflect the greater savvy of EPCR.
Along the lines of the European Champions League, there would be five commercial partners rather than one title sponsor ala the Heineken Cup, according to Mark McCafferty, the PRL representative on the EPCR board, and his buddies.
Well, a full four seasons on no less, and there are still only two commercial partners, Heineken and Turkish Airlines. Imagine the outcry from the PRL, LNR, various club owners in England and France, along with sections of the UK media, if the old ERC had so spectacularly failed to deliver on its promises. Instead, there’s been barely a squeak.
The failure to bring on board three more commercial partners has been attributed to the split television deals between Sky and BT for the rights to games in the UK and Ireland, but the latter was foisted upon the new competitions because the English clubs sold the rights to European games in tournaments that were then under the auspices of ERC!