Saturday 19 October 2019

Leinster chief warns PRO14 to heed lesson of Super Rugby


Michael Dawson, CEO of Leinster Rugby. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
Michael Dawson, CEO of Leinster Rugby. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leinster chief executive Mick Dawson has warned that the Guinness PRO14 must not push its expansion plans too quickly.

Tournament chief Martin Anayi has already said that the addition of a North American franchise is an inevitability, while a move into new European territories like Germany is also on the cards as the tournament seeks to grow revenues to keep up with the English Premiership and French Top 14.

The hastily-arranged move into South Africa has not gone smoothly with the Southern Kings win-less in three games and the Cheetahs picking up a victory over Zebre at home last weekend. The crowds that watched the two matches in South Africa were disappointing, in particular in Port Elizabeth where the official attendance of 3,011 for Leinster's visit looked generous in a 46,000-capacity arena.

Speaking in Cape Town where the Irish province are preparing for Friday night's clash with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, Dawson said that while expansion was needed it needs to be patient and strategically planned.

Citing the example of the southern hemisphere's Super Rugby which has lost viewers after growing its number of teams and over-complicating the format before slimming down this winter, the Leinster chief wants growth but at a managed pace.

"You've got to be very careful that you don't do what Super Rugby did and grow too big too quickly," he told the Irish Independent.

"We need time to walk before we can run to get this league established.

"The South African thing was on nobody's radar this time last year and South Africa is an established rugby-playing nation.

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"They find it easier, the American thing - we just have to be careful because they don't have many players.

"There are enthusiastic people in the States, but I think it was very important for the league when looking at the television income the French and English clubs are receiving, we needed to expand, to get a bit more money in our pocket to make sure we can keep the Irish players at home.

"Ourselves and the union work hard to keep the Irish players at home, to make sure they're well-remunerated and by and large they want to stay put."

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