Change to controversial Champions Cup format could be made in time for next season

A general view of the Heineken Champions Cup trophy

Cian Tracey

The format of the Heineken Champions Cup is set to be rejigged, with changes possibly coming into effect as early as next season.

The current format has come in for plenty of criticism, as tournament organisers EPCR moved away from that tried and tested pool structure that had worked so well over the years.

However, EPCR have taken the feedback on board and are now looking at various options, which may be introduced in time for next season’s tournament.

Many supporters would prefer to move away from the format that sees two expanded pools of 12 teams and return to the classic format of pools of four.

A decision is expected soon about how next season’s Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will look.

“We are looking at our format at the moment, quite thoughtfully and quite deeply, with a view to trying to make sure it is appropriate going forward,” EPCR Chairman, Dominic McKay said.

“We recognise there has been a fair bit of interest in the format this season and in recent seasons, and we want to make sure we have the right format for the future.

“So, we are looking at that in a very deep way just now. We’re engaging with our leagues, we’re engaging with the unions, we’re engaging with our broadcast partners and our sponsors.

“But importantly, we’re engaging with our fans and with our players to get feedback from them also.

“So, it has been quite a deep piece of analysis about what we can do to enhance and improve the format, if that’s helpful and appropriate.

“We’re engaging with around 1,000 rugby enthusiasts across the whole of Europe, so everyone will have a different perspective.

“Our challenge is to use that information wisely to try and put together the best possible format, given the constraints that we operate in, in the sort of global calendar to expand, develop and improve on what is already an outstanding set of competitions.”

Asked whether the changes to the format could be introduced in time for next season, McKay responded:

“We are right in the middle of our discussions at the moment on the format. What we would like to try and do is have an improvement as early as we can,” he said.

"So, it is possible that we could see some improvements next season.”

McKay also dampened expectations that a Club World Cup could be introduced to rugby's convoluted global calendar as early as 2025, but the EPCR chairman made it clear that the organisation was still open to the idea of the tournament.

“We probably accelerated that process in the last year through some pretty meaningful and deep engagement with our colleagues in the southern hemisphere," McKay added.

“Those conversations and dialogue are ongoing right now. We really like the idea and the concept of the Club World Cup but it needs to be right for everybody.

“I think everybody is excited about the possibility of identifying who the best club in the world is. And if there is a format that can create that, then we are really keen to actively explore that.

“But I don’t see anything happening in the short-term. It’s an important project that we are actively engaged in, but it’s too soon to go into any detail on it.

“2025 feels pretty soon, instinctively to me. We are open minded on the date.”