Wednesday 28 September 2016

Pro12 CEO reveals plans to add more teams and split league into conferences

Published 01/04/2016 | 17:56

Irish fans will likely never treat Pro12 games with the same enthusiasm as a big European Cup clash but the league has definitely taken steps to make it a more exciting competition.

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You could say that it was the English and French power brokers who forced the Pro12 to adopt merit-based European qualification but regardless, it has certainly made for a more engaging product every week - and there could be even bigger changes coming soon.

The CEO of the PRO12, Martin Anayi, gave a big interview to Wales Online where he described his ideal vision for the league, and it certainly sounds exciting.

Anayi wants more games played outside the international window, so fans aren't left watching glorified A teams squaring off while the Six Nations hogs the majority of the attention.

But how could this structure be achieved? Anayi talks about possibly splitting the league into conferences, like in Super Rugby, and that may include expanding the competition to more than 12 teams.

"We have more international players than any other competition, but we play games in the international window," Anayi said.

"That is self-defeating. In that period of the season, crowds and TV audience are down by 45 per cent."

"You have to be creative," he continued.

"If you going to play all your games outside of the international window, then you either have to look at a reduction in the number of teams or look at a different structure to the season with conferences, which allows you to expand."

Anayi was also asked about the possibility of London Welsh and London Scottish joining the competition and he spoke about it as a possibility while also touching on expansion in general.

"With that in mind, expansion and a conference system is one option," Anayi said.

"But you can’t just expand for expansion’s sake. We have got to expand with the right financial base. What we want is to create more value to allow us to expand the competition. We won’t just be expanding on a whim, not just on a hope. It will be expansion when we know it will create more money."

But unfortunately for Irish fans who have sat through countless thrashings of limp Italian outfits, Anayi has no intention of booting Zebre or Treviso out of the competition for the time being.

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