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Dollars Will Do It

February 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Dollars Will Do It.

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Dollars Will Do It

February 13, 2013 1 comment

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I read an interesting article this week written by Canadian journalist Jeff Hull in the Bleacher Report where he considered the possible future involvement of European pro rugby on the North American scene.

Rugby Union in Canada and the States is desperate to grow and looking at all the possibilities right now ahead of the next major Rugby World Cup showcase. In his article Hull suggested the possibilities of a link with the RaboDirect Pro 12 League, otherwise known as the Celtic League, which has already extended beyond its traditional boundaries to include the Italians.

Tournament director David Jordan thinks this is unlikely at present for logistical reasons within the constraints of the current domestic season but I would argue that the Rabo isn`t a league of sufficient quality from which to showcase the best of the game in Europe.

With no promotion or relegation and the Irish provinces of Ulster, Munster and Leinster by and large dominant every season it is going nowehere fast as a product. The Welsh regions exist in a continual state of loggerheads with the WRU whilst in Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow have huge potential but like their national squad never manage any effective levels of consistency. The Italians need time and money before they can be a real force in the game.

How you would weave American and Canadian teams into this already confused set-up I don`t know, although I have argued many times before that the league and cup competitions in Europe need re-vamping and streamlining. One possible avenue for experimentation might be with a restructuring of Europe`s second tier cup competition – the Amlin Cup – to allow the cream of North America to compete from European bases.

I spoke to Jeff Hull earlier in the season when I met him at London Scottish and he sold me completely on the passion of the Americans and Canadians for the game. Their domestic set-up has improved greatly over the years but the club scene is still largely amateur with the best players having to move to Europe or Japan to earn a living. That is not going to change overnight but the market for untapped potential appears massive. It just needs somebody brave enough to take the plunge on this side of the pond.

Saracens have already courted South Africa as a venue for one-off Heineken Cup games whilst London Wasps and Harlequins hooked up in Abu Dhabi for an LV= Cup tie. If that wasn`t about promoting their respective brands then what were they doing there?

The NFL have succesfully brought Gridiron to London for several years now and are now openly talking about starting a new European League on the basis of the resurgent interest in the game especially in the UK. Whilst in the world of soccer many of our Premiership teams in England play pre-season warm-ups in the USA to sell-out crowds. Big oak trees grow from small acorns so why not try it with rugby union.

Whilst Europe continually dithers over the subject of developing the so-called emerging nations the North Americans have a mighty weapon in their armoury which given time could well force the issue. It is called money. Financially viable leagues with lucrative TV coverage would soon turn the heads of the game`s top movers and shakers on the eastern shores of the Atlantic.

It hasn`t happened yet but if it does who will win the race to link-up and cash in on the dollars on offer – Europe or the Southern Hemisphere gang of four? It could be quite a bitter tussle with rugby itself no doubt coming second again.

*Jeff Hull`s feature – “Could European Pro Rugby Come to North America?” can be read here http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1520013-exclusive-could-european-pro-rugby-come-to-north-america

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