Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Possible meritocratic system under new European domestic reforms?

imageThe latest news about reports on the European domestic teams outside the 6 Nations may be doing with the European reforms next season.

On the face of it, the deal that the rest of Europe seems to be getting looks similar to the status quo participation in the Amlin Challenge Cup but with an added qualifying section. However there are some key details that have yet to have had a mention.

The current Amlin Challenge Cup participation from the ENC teams is pretty woeful and below the standard it could be. The Romanian and Portuguese entities currently playing in the competition are development teams, neither set up for the goal of winning first and foremost.

Such teams have led to vastly weaker performances over the past dozen years. In Romania for instance, the Bucharest Wolves team is a cobbled together side from various sides and play their first game just a week after the SuperLiga final. The players involved are often experimental and the side is heavily rotated to give all of the 38 man squad a run out. It's a team entirely set up for the purposes of development not success.
Would development sides like the
Bucharest Wolves be in the revised
tournament? Or sides geared more
towards the goal of winning?

There may be merits to doing that, but not ones that involves a more competitive side in the tournament. The Romanian champions Timisoara would be considerably stronger side, with added foreigners (they have 11 in total including an ex-All Black Sosene Anesi), having a full season not just a week together in preparation and perhaps most importantly the goal to win not to develop. This side was actually in fact approved by the FRR to compete in the Amlin Cup, but the incompetent ERC ruined that.

So that is one unanswered question. Which teams will play? Genuine club sides or the development sides that the ERC liked? The other important unanswered question is where exactly is the money coming from to fund the tournament?

This season Spain were supposed to have a development side in the Amlin Challenge Cup but couldn't stump up the money to play and were replaced by a Portuguese version. The season before that they entered a club side, but it ended up being a mid table side as none of the top 3 sides could afford to play.
An obvious question might be why did the ERC always ask the Iberians to play? After all they ranked 4th and 5th in the ENC this year and have notoriously amateur run Unions, whereas Georgia who have won the title 7 times in 8 years and never got a chance to play nor have Russia who qualified for the last World Cup and a large potential market. Both those nations would likely not just offer better competition, but have more money behind them to pay what Spain couldn't.

However under the ERC management, the actual competitive level of the ENC teams in the competition was secondary to which option was cheapest. They simply refused the idea of the expense of travelling to far Eastern Europe.
Rumours are sides will qualify on
merit as opposed to convenience
under the new reforms. Which
could lead to Russian champions
Krasny Yar competing instead of
a mid table Spanish side.

Whoever is controlling the new setup may take a different view to Georgia and Russia but the same issue applies. A qualifying tournament with distances as far away as Lisbon to Russia is a lot more expensive than England to France and also generates less money.

The best guess is that probably the IRB may end up footing up some of the bill on behalf of the ENC nations. The qualifying tournament may also more likely be a one venue style event with 2 or 3 matches over a week to keep costs down, similar to how the IRB runs tournaments in South America and Africa.

Although there are big questions as to how precisely this tournament works out, if true that teams from Georgia and Russia can finally get a chance to compete under the reforms then that is very positive. Another potential positive would be hopefully for the strongest and most competitive teams compete. That will mean an end to poorly prepared Romanian trial sides and an end to mid table Spanish clubs and Portuguese development sides awarded their place on cheapness. The fact they have been competing for so long has tarnished the reputation of European domestic rugby outside the 6 Nations.

1 comment :

  1. Прошу прощения что пишу по-русски. На мой взгляд российские и грузинские клубы могут "навести шороху" в Еврокубках и очень глупо то, что они там до сих пор не играют!