THE BLOG
18/09/2013 13:03 BST | Updated 18/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Don't Let English Clubs Mess With Premiership Calendar

The Premier League final could be moved from its logical place at the end of the domestic season to a new slot in late January or early February to make room for a new cross-border competition, under controversial plans from England's top clubs.

The Premiership final could be moved from its logical place at the end of the domestic season to a new slot in late January or early February to make room for a new cross-border competition, under controversial plans from England's top clubs.

According to the Guardian, the proposals would see the replacement for the existing Heineken Cup take place in a single block running from March to June, replacing the current union-run tournament.

The new competition, which is backed by the Premiership sides and their French Top 14 pals, would also be open to teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales - although it's very much open to debate whether or not they'll want to play a part in a tournament that isn't run by the existing organising body, European Rugby Cup.

Furthermore, there are suggestions that South African franchises currently competing in Super Rugby could be invited to snub their counterparts in Australia and New Zealand and enter the new tournament.

That's all well and good. It's hard to blame the English and French teams from dreaming of a future that's different to the existing Heineken Cup, in which the Rabodirect Pro12 clubs get an easy ride on qualification while receiving 52 per cent of competition revenues.

Holding the Premiership final before the Six Nations? Are they mad?

But while seeking changes to the current structure of the Heineken Cup is one thing, changing the whole shape of the Premiership calendar is entirely different.

Speaking to the Guardian, a Premiership insider said the top tier of English rugby could see its showpiece event bumped forward to an innocuous slot before the Six Nations to accommodate the new version of the Heineken Cup.

"Then, if you ran a new Heineken Cup with the South Africans involved between March and June, that would be a pretty good competition for four months," they explained. "You'll hear people not just talking about a new European Cup but a new trans-border competition."

This is complete nonsense and makes a mockery of the status of the Premiership, which - it should be pointed out - is one of the most exciting and unpredictable club competitions in world rugby.

It has more tight matches than any other league on the planet, with an average winning margin of just over 11 points. What's more, this season is shaping up to be one of the closest ever thanks to the addition of Newcastle Falcons, who showed they're certainly no mugs after beating Sale Sharks on their own patch last Friday (September 13th).

Why maintaining the status quo in the Premiership is vital

If England's top clubs succeed in shifting the Premiership final forward to January or February, they will be robbing fans of one of the elements that makes the league so tough to win - and fascinating to watch.

At the moment, the competition stretches from September to late May, meaning that for clubs to be successful they have to adapt to playing in a range of different conditions. They have to be just as effective in the mud, rain and freezing temperatures of December and January as they are when the sun (occasionally) comes out at the start and end of the campaign.

In this way, the Premiership is a completely different kettle of fish to Super Rugby, where the majority of matches take place in glorious sunshine in front of crowds of bronzed fans wearing shorts and shades.

If the months of February to May are effectively scythed from the Premiership calendar, it could be a real death knell for running rugby in the competition. Ten-man rugby would be the order of the day, with the wingers left kicking their heels and dreaming of the days when they used to have a major impact on the outcome of Premiership matches.

The move would also clearly position the league as a lesser competition to the Heineken Cup, or whatever the new tournament ends up being called. Is this what the fans really want?

We'd advise the money men in the English game to think long and hard before they commit to ripping up the calendar.

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