At last the WRUin seem to have come up with an idea on how to inject some much needed life into a tired and predictable fixture list with real hope for change next season. Whilst we may not be getting a British League, it seems that a Celtic League is not so far away.
Contradictory stories still abound in the media but it seems that the first matches of the new league would be played on 25 August 2001. Fourteen teams – eight Welsh, two Scottish and four Irish will be spilt into two pools, with play-offs for the league title. Some reports say both home and away fixtures whilst others say not. The top two teams in each pool will go through to the semi-final. The Heineken Cup would not be affected and the existing Welsh-Scottish League would be moved to after Christmas, although it would be reduced from 12 to 10 clubs.
Try as we might, trying to fit all this into a season seems very difficult if there’s going to be 6 Celtic League games (no way to be home and away!) plus semi-final and final, same Europen Cup structure, and a further 18 games in the WSL. The Village Cup will have to go! Then there’s the question of the luck of the draw – firstly dictating which pool your team is drawn in, and then which teams you play away at – all a bit of a lottery! And finally there’s the prospect of playing one Welsh team five or six times in one season (once in the Celtic League pool, once in the CL Final, once in the European Cup and twice in the Village League and once in the Village Cup – if it servives!). And what about this Champion of Champions play off, we’re hearing about?
But there is a cost associated with these proposal and it has been estimated that an extra £100,000 will be needed to meet the travel expenses of the new Celtic league. Welsh Premier Clubs chairman Stuart Gallacher hopes this could be met by the increased television revenue and from sponsorship of the new league. Planely so far, the WRUin have failed to market the existing Wales-Scottish League to any potential sponsors – “We haven’t succeeded in getting a Welsh-Scottish League sponsor yet, but we are actively seeking one,” Geoff Evans said. Can we really expect anything different if the Irish join the League?
As expected there are already rumblings of discontent from amongst the amateur and semi-pro ranks. The Division One clubs association chairman, David Escott of Rumney, is quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t be surprised if some clubs in this division launch legal action over this.”
All this restructuring means that Caerphilly and Cross Keys (surely the two teams which finish bottom of the WSL) will be relegated to the first division – it seems Uncle Peter will get his wish! But you can’t help feel some sympathy with Dunvant’s Mark Perdue, their technical director of rugby, when he says, “The last time we were told this it was two weeks before the end of the season, so this is pretty good for the WRU. We use the Union as a personal motivation for the club. We’re determined to make ourselves as much of a pain to the Union as we can.”