The Pro12 could be a radically different tournament by the end of the decade.
Since the turn of the year, the Pro 12 has been the subject of a great deal of speculation. Not only has there been talk of including American franchises, but a third Italian side and some radical alterations to the competition’s format.
However, although a number of leaks have been published in the press, few specific details have yet to be revealed. Indeed, despite the league’s managing director, Martin Anayi, telling reporters that Boston, New York and Philadelphia were being considered a potential homes for the American franchises, little else has emerged.
Nevertheless, Anayi’s comments suggest that the Pro 12 will be radically overhauled by the end of the decade. However, with their broadcast deal with Sky yet to be renewed, Pro 12 organisers will have to move fast if they are to put together a product that will stimulate positive attention.
To this end, it is vitally important that the respective unions continue to hold onto their best players and maximise their availability. It is for this reason Anayi put his weight behind the establishment of a new global season and switching the Six Nations to an April start date.
However, as the establishment of a global calendar falls outside of Anayi’s remit, including the American franchises and separating the competition into two equally sized conferences should be his priority.
Any new “Pro 14” must go for a quality over quantity approach, and schedule fewer games during international windows so as to make it’s star players available throughout the season. Establishing conferences allows the league achieve this, while also increasing the number of derby matches.
Therefore, if the league is to be separated, it would most likely see the Irish sides dominate one conference and the Welsh the other.
In order to facilitate more derbies, organisers should endeavour to place the two Italian sides in one conference and the Scottish teams in the second, with the American franchises making up the difference in both.
Each team would play home and away ties against the other sides in their respective conference, before the top two sides in each would qualify for the end of season play-offs.
If the annual Judgement Day series in Wales is anything to go by, such a schedule would create a steady stream of highly publicised and well attended derby fixtures.
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Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
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