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It's time for a British league

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John Beattie | 11:28 UK time, Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Right, this is going to hurt. English rugby is the hotbed of the game in the northern hemisphere. Ouch. Help! Nurse...!

I say again, I want a British league.

And the reason? Promotion and relegation. It's a real league. If players lose games they lose their jobs.

I have written articles about how English club rugby is stodgy but, just like its soccer counterpart, the English league is becoming the best in the world.

I watched that Leicester v Saracens game at the weekend and my jaw was dropping to the floor. It was confrontational, tactical, abrasive and oh-so-good to watch. The best game for a while.

Leicester lift the Guinness Premiership trophyPremiership winners Leicester celebrate their third title in four years. Photo: Getty.
You won't know this but the Leicester boss Richard Cockerill was kind to me last summer when I was looking for tactics to employ as coach of West of Scotland in our shamateur Premiership in Scotland.

I got his mobile, spoke to him a few times, and he gave me some pointers as to how they play and how they train.

His players are highly trained, highly motivated, and in it to win it. It's all about winning.

And I guess part of what binds English rugby clubs is that they know that if they don't succeed they go down.

Can you imagine the real fear for coaches, players and administrators as they contemplate losing their jobs? Can you imagine what it must have been, week in and week out, to be Worcester? Played 22, won 3, demoted.

Contrast that with the Magners League. Ostensibly Munster, Leinster and the Ospreys could argue to be "better" than many English teams and they have their pride, but I don't think that the Magners League provides the same test every week.

Glasgow and Edinburgh, my primary interest, are not hammered every week. There isn't the same fear factor. Players don't have to win to the same extent.

In the Magners League, it's Connacht: played 18, won 5, not relegated.

There are Irish, Welsh and Scottish clubs that would light up a British league. A real league needs promotion and relegation. Magners League rugby is "prettier" but it's not as pressurised.

I want all of our teams to be involved in promotion and relegation. Nurse, I want to be British! Help! Nurse...!

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I disagree with the promotion and relegation style league. The problem is teams go out to avoid losing instead of winning by as many points possible. I think you'll see how this effects the English game. At the start of the season the games were generally low scoring.

    The English Premiership is good as there's big money there and it attracts big names. I wouldn't say this has improved England as a national side though.

    I think the Magners should stay as it is now. the introduction of the play-offs has added some extra spice and if the balance between tv rights and attendances can be worked out then we could have stadiums which are really rocking come game night.

    I could see a two tier British League working but I think it would be a bit harsh on clubs being put out of business if they get relegated. The Scottish and Welsh regions would never survive without heineken & magners rugby.

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree totally, plodding along, season after season with no great motivation describes exactly what has been wrong with our game for years, real competition provides fitter, stronger ( physically and mentally ), hungrier players which in turn provides better teams.

  • Comment number 3.

    John,
    You are a bit like a broken record on this one.
    I honestly don't get the point, and lack of english team success in the Heiniken cup (excellent as some of them indeed are, supporters and all) hardly backs up you argument.

    The Magner's team does not have what you consider top notch teams all the way through, but you know, neither does the TOP 14 in France even! So not all the TOP 14 or premiership matches can be up to your lofty standards. It will be a while before you see someone like Toulouse or Clermont fighting against relegation so I don't really get that argument either.
    the play-offs in the Magner's league adds the excitement - as it does in the TOP14 or premiership leagues.

    and I really don't get the point of all british and irish team on one side in a league and the french teams in their own top-14 league. It won't progress northern hemisphere rugby - But if you include the french then of course you have got the H-cup.

  • Comment number 4.

    John

    Have read the blog for ages, but first time commenting. While I agree that a British league is the way forward I realistically cannot see any other Home Unions agreeing to it. One possible way forward would be to have a premiership style British play off, you know Premiership Champions v Magners League champions? But again would anyone go for it.

    And I totally support relagation, despite my team (Quins) having suffered it in the past . it is the only way to keep the intesity and drive going in the games at the back end of the season. And while we are at it let's do away with the premiership ply off baloney.

    keep up the blog

  • Comment number 5.

    I can't see Irish sides wanting to play in anything called a British league. Do you ever think before you write anything John?

  • Comment number 6.

    We don't need the english teams, if the Magners was to expand into a cross border competition.

    I would prefer it to be with the top french clubs.

    John, i have been playing and then watching rugby since i was 7 years old ( 1960 ) and we have never needed to be involved with the english clubs.

    Yes we used to play them on a regular basis in the amateur era, but they needed us more than we needed them.

  • Comment number 7.

    As an Englishman, I couldn't agree less! We have one superb European tournament - the Heineken Cup - which is probably the best rugby union tournament in the world including international. I find the Anglo-Welsh Cup takes it dangerously close to overexposure already and a British (& Irish) league would definitely be a step too far. I'd rather we didn't devalue what we have in the way the southern hemisphere powers have done with their international schedule.
    On a practical note to support my view - as a Quins fan I simply don't feel there is enough of a rivalry with the Welsh, Scots or Irish to give games enough bite and I couldn't afford to travel to away games as I do now.
    But I also don't think there's any doubt that the Magners would be a better tournament for having promotion and relegation. The problem with multi-country tournaments is that you have quotas to fill and couldn't afford a situation where one country ended up unrepresented. I hate the GP playoffs, but promotion and relegation is absolutely vital - in sport there should be winners and losers otherwise what are you playing for?

  • Comment number 8.

    I think we all agree that the Heineken Cup is a highly successful tournament, and that this is not needing any drastic tinkering. If a British League comes along, isn't this just the poor mans Heineken Cup minus France?

    I like the Magners as it is, and I like the Guiness as it is. Clearly the Guiness is not broken, even though they are gash as the European Cup, and the Magners league has increased crowds year on year with the Italians on board next year. I get the iompression you want to tinker for tinkering sake.

    Magners managers still lose their jobs. Poor performances are poor performances. End of. There is no relegation from the 6 nations either and it is a league.

  • Comment number 9.

    Fordie, you may want to check your facts before you write:
    "John,
    You are a bit like a broken record on this one.
    I honestly don't get the point, and lack of english team success in the Heiniken cup (excellent as some of them indeed are, supporters and all) hardly backs up you argument"

    I think you will find that the English are the most successful country in the Heiniken Cup. In all it has been won 5 times by French clubs, 4 times by an Irish clubs and 6 times by ENGLISH clubs! I would also like to add that English clubs have only been involved in the 13 of the 15 Heiniken Cup competitions and therefore have a 46% success rate in the HC which they have competed in!

  • Comment number 10.

    John what are you smoking!!!!! We don't need the English.

    We need to increase the size of the ML to 16 teams, four from each country, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Italy, with two leagues of 8 teams and play-offs for the championship and promotion and relegation. Also better TV coverage, especially up here!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    John,

    regardless of the merits of a British league, there will always be this 'anyone but the English' attitude as shown below from the comments: -

    From OwainGlyndwr

    John, i have been playing and then watching rugby since i was 7 years old ( 1960 ) and we have never needed to be involved with the english clubs.

    Yes we used to play them on a regular basis in the amateur era, but they needed us more than we needed them.

    From Alex:

    John what are you smoking!!!!! We don't need the English.

    Rather than a reasoned answer as to why this may not work or what would need to happen to make it successful, we have the well thought out argument of we don't want or need them.

    I was going to add a view of your proposal from an English rugby supporter but given the responses that would no doubt be added I can't be bothered.

    Good luck with your future blogs......... it looks like you'll need it.

  • Comment number 13.

    The issue of no relegation in the Magners league is not entirely one sided. I agree that the introduction of the end of season playoffs has added much spice. There were very few dead rubbers over the last few months because the qualification for the HC was also impacted. If the home unions already have the ideal number of regions/clubs/provinces then who will replace them on relegation and promotion grounds. It will simply be a yoyo exercise and will unlikely improve quality. As far as I am aware none of the clubs below this tier have professional set ups. How will they compete? The GP is different it has bigger numbers and more critical mass able to support that sytem. Although as a regular watcher I see too many games where fear drives the intensity rather than going for the win.

  • Comment number 14.

    Are you saying the super 14 soon to be super 15 is rubbish because it doesn't have relegation?

    the super 14 teams would be better than most in Europe and they have no fear of relegation, it actually leads to more open rugby.

    "There are Irish, Welsh and Scottish clubs that would light up a British league"

    why would there be Irish teams in a british league maybe in a British and Irish League.

    The Magners is fine and growing and improving I don't think the Guinness is becoming the best League in europe try the top 14

  • Comment number 15.

    John - you are so right, a competitive British League with promotion and relegation developing British players. Mow where do Munster and Leinster fit?
    The problem is that you will always get English protests that the Scots, Irish and Welsh would not want it which is their smokescreen for - we don't want it!

  • Comment number 16.

    Ben W - it would be a BRITISH LEAGUE not an amalgam of four 'countries' which really do not exist. My passport says that I am from the UNITED KINGDOM of GREAT BRITAIN and NORTHERN IRELAND - that is the name of OUR country!! Stop being so introverted and embrace your nationality.

  • Comment number 17.

    I have to agree with Fordie, this is a terrible idea!
    Why is it that Premiership fans see one good match and think the GP is working, what was the score? 33-27? Is that good play or just a complete lack of defence?

    Just look at how well Magners league teams are doing the in the Heineken Cup! Also I completely disagree with your statements that 'relegation makes players need to play well or they lose their jobs'. This happens with or without relegation, because no coach in his right mind would carry on hiring players who weren't performing.

    I just think you have some sadistic desire to see players & coaches sweating over relegation John.

  • Comment number 18.

    What you have neglected to see, is that there is already a form of relegation in the Magners league. This year, the Scarlets, Connacht and Ulster all were fighting to avoid relegation - FROM THE HC. There simply are not enough teams for relegation to work in the Magners, and a British league would contain too many teams, so that many English teams in the GP would end up in a 2nd division. I like the Magners the way it is, teams aspire to greatness, no to mediocrity.

  • Comment number 19.

    Joining into a British league is in hinsight a good idea, would give the home nations a way to get more bragging rights, and may also help in term of potential Lions selection.

    But would the English teams have to employ a regional system also for it to work? Which is fine in terms of a team from London and the south east and Glocestershire area as they have many teams to pick players from but what about Newcastle?

  • Comment number 20.

    It's a beautiful day in Glasgow, about to jump on the motorbike and go through to Edinburgh. In response to some above I have not been smoking anything.

    There are arguments both ways of course, I understand that. I just will never understand - and I am being straight up with you all here - how we all live in such proximity yet play in two different leagues. One side will argue that it is the best, the other will argue the same for their side.

    It is BONKERS! And, since the early days of watching rugby in my country, it's been pretty obvious that the two historically strong leagues have been the English and Welsh leagues. Now the Welsh are in a Celtic league while the English have their own.

    Real life includes relegation....

    JB

  • Comment number 21.

    I can't see how you would manage relegation in a cross border league, if a welsh side gets relegated who gets promoted?

    Of the three league finals the GP was by far the best, but it was probably the best match I've seen all season.

    Promotion and relegation only really works if there are teams in the lower league who can compete when promoted, now we have Worcs and Bristol in the Championship we will hopefully start to see a higher standard.

    Only one NH side has got through to multiple RWC finals and won one, at the time it was claimed by many that the hard-nosed competition driven by the GP was the reason for England's success.

  • Comment number 22.

    John, I can see your point of the top teams playing in the same league, but where do they go if relegated.
    The English leagues are set up for promotion / relegation from the small clubs at grass roots right through to the top of the GP, as it is in Wales and Scotland through to their respective Premierships (and probably Ireland also, but I don't know much about Irish grass roots rugby). So where do they go if relegated ? It's a bit like the talk of Rangers and Celtic joining the English Premiership, where do they go if relegated ? The Championship or back to the Scottish Premiership?

    Much as I would like to see the Ospreys play tghe likes of Leicester, Wasps and Quins on a regular basis, I don't think it would work in the long term. As an after thought, the Ospreys seem to have a regular fixture with Leicester already !!!

  • Comment number 23.

    "I have written articles about how English club rugby is stodgy but, just like its soccer counterpart, the English league is becoming the best in the world."

    -------------------------------------------------------------------

    Bloody hell, now there's a balanced and well considered view that isn't at all based on one single game. Top journalism.

    Oh, hang on, no - that's right. This is the same English league whose death was proclaimed as recently as mid-season when only one team managed the HC knockouts. Christ, one decent premiership final and it's 'becoming the best league in the world.' Now I'm English, and I love the premiership, but come on John - that's a fast turnaround bordering on the ridiculous, isn't it?

  • Comment number 24.

    John, should we assume that geography wasn't one of your stronger subjects in school ?

  • Comment number 25.

    A British (and Irish) league is not necessarily a bad thing. However, how do you manage the cross border relegation/promotion issue? Done wrongly and it will only be a short time before no Scottish team is capable of competing in that league.

    When Edinburgh and/or Glasgow are relegated a) Where do they go? and b) Who replaces them?

    If you are talking about 2 or 3 divisions of a British league would you go along to watch a Scottish team that is languishing near the bottom of division 3 (for that is where they will be for the first 10 to 20 years of the league)?

    We have seen with the British and Irish cup that the top Scottish club sides have difficulty competing with the 2nd/3rd string sides from England, Wales and Ireland. Bringing the Scottish domestic game up to standard will take a long time and until that happens it is daft to talk of any Scottish involvement in a British league.

  • Comment number 26.

  • Comment number 27.

    John I approach this weeks blog in two minds really. I completely agree with you that relegation is key to an exciting league with competition right the way through the tournament and levels of the league. It's what gives the T14 and Guinness Premiership it's bite and adds spice to even the driest game. The playoff in the Magners League could potentially be said to have added something but to me it's actually increased sides apathy to the league, especially in the early stages. Just look at the Ospreys. The eventual winners but little interest until they were knocked out of the Heineken Cup, Munster doing just enough to get into 4th place. It's no mystery as to why we've seen lower teams win surprising matchs this season but the same old teams at the end of the year in what is the most top stacked league in the world with only 3 or 4 decent sides and the rest being vey poor.

    However what I disagree on is that a British league is the answer. Mainly as it wouldn't suit either group. Inevitably you'd have to create at least two top leagues from the current teams and you'd lose some of the great rivalries that have been going on for over 100 years. Added to this you'd damage the financial security of the league. Taking in the lower gate sides of the Magners league, especially the Scottish sides, and making travelling to away games less palatable wouldn't help the financial position of the clubs.

    Next the Magners league teams place every importance on the Heineken Cup. By having a league where you can simply ignore several games and store all your energies for the Heineken Cup they can concentrate on this and have a level of success that is higher than their talent can offer. The stacked Heineken Cup qualification virtually gauranteeing them a place and no risk of dropping down gives the Magners League sides the cushion they need to keep afloat. Having lower attendences and the knock on effects of this (less food and drink etc.) means they need to be able gaurantee some level of income. Relegation for these teams could mean financial collapse.

    As such I agree that relegation makes for a much more exciting league but a British league is the last thing we need.

  • Comment number 28.

    Great idea. Two divisions, probably based on geography, of 8 teams each, comprising the 4 Welsh regions, 4 Irish regions, 2 Scotish regions and 6 new English regions. There now that should scupper that idea completely. The RFU going away from the club based game, no chance. In that case there will never be a British League of any great strength and depth. The English need the British league more than the other nations, so when they agree to regions then negotiations can begin. Two divisions, top two or four in each division play off for Super grand universal champion of champions cup at the end of the season. No relegation, it would not be needed. Wages cap to try and allow an even playing field. England must remember that there is already a British league without them, its called the Celtic (Magners) League, if they want to join they will have to adapt. If you want to improve you will have to change and join the club, how have the Celtic sides been doing in europe lately on their shoe string budgets compared to the English teams ??

  • Comment number 29.

    And exactly how would you decide who should start off in the 2nd division of such a league?
    With the difference in budgets (as illustrated by the Football Premiere League) it would end up with the 1st division being predominantly English and the 2nd Division being Celtic. This would also push even more money out of the loewr teams creating a true disparity between the nations and your beloved Scotland (along with Wales and Ireland) would suffer badly.

    Things are fine as it is. The magners League final and Amlin final this year illustrate quite well the quality teams in the magners league

  • Comment number 30.

    I watch Leicester Tigers every week and can tell you that whilst it is not always as exciting as that match it is always as intense.

    Every team that plays desparately wants to win every game or at the very least get a losing bonus points - rarely do you crush even the weakest teams.

    A team like Leicester fight on three fronts every season Guiness Premiership, EDF cup and Hieneken cup and provide large numbers of players to England , England A , Under 20s and release their foriegn stars for internationals also

    They do all this under £4m wage cap and by they way, get no more money from the RFU, for providing say 9 players to England, than Worcester who provide none. With all these handicaps it is remarkable that they get anywhere near the French clubs in the Hieneken.

    It is achieved however from (as John rightly says) good coaching, enourmous club and team spiit and above all else a driving ambition to succeed. Remember this is a club that sacked a coach who took them to 2 finals - not good enough!

    The fear of relegation makes the bottom clubs fight as hard as the top.

    They (Tigers)must win each and every game including finals or the season is a disapointment and only the real insiders like Cockerill understand it. When Tigers lost to Saracens on the last day of the standard season in what was a dead rubber to them and lost a long standing unbeaten home record it was deemed unacceptable - In training the following week the forwrds exacted their revenge on each other in their usual fashion - Intense mauling training errupted into a brawl, finished apparently when Louis Deacon ( the epitome of Leicester Local Lad) laid one of his team mates out cold.

    Did this create bitterness and resentment - no that was fine - normal service was resumed - The much fancied Bath were swept away in the semis in the next match and Saracens dealt with in the Final - Much delirium ensued.

    But what does the Tigers fans forum say this week - "Great but next year we want the Hieneken as well".........nothing .. rightly is ever good enough.

    That is the spirit that won England a World Cup in 03 and what Johnson would love to bottle and take into his current England set up.
    It is what I believe we have had fleetingly usually under Telfor and Mcgeechan in Scotland - '84 and '90 spring to mind - and would that we could go to that place again

  • Comment number 31.

    John do you think that adopting a relegation system would help the Celtic nations when it comes to the biggest stage in world rugby, namely the world cup? Overall they've been pretty much an utter failure in world cups with one third place and one fourth place between all three and even reaching the semis being a very rare occurance, all too frequent knock outs in the group stages and only Scotland reaching the quarters last time, plus all the sides in 2003 going out in the quarters (these being the two world cups since the inception of the Magners League) it's pretty clear that at the very top level of competition the Celtic nations just can't cut it.

    Personally I think that part of the reason for greater English success is because of the higher level of competition in the Guinness Premiership better prepares players for World Cup rugby. This being that every game matters, winning at all costs and not being able to save players and freshness just for a one off big game about once a month.

    So do you think the greater compeition relegation and, I'd say, proper competition for qualification for Heineken Cup places would teach players these skills?

  • Comment number 32.

    This is the thing, the Celtic teams base success entirely on the Heineken cup. None of them give a rats arse about winning the league, until they have won it. The lack of relegation and real battle for Heineken cup qualification, devalues the Celtic league as a competition. And that is not saying there arent some excellent teams.

  • Comment number 33.

    John, sorry to annoy you, I'm not British though...

    "Right, this is going to hurt. English rugby is the hotbed of the game in the northern hemisphere"

    In Northern Emisphere there is a big Rugby country, France.

    Maybe ok for Promotion and relegation but...
    "the English league is becoming the best in the world" I do not agree.
    1 HC final Toulouse/Biarritz
    2 Semi final Biarritz/Munster ML and Toulouse/Leinster ML.

    I agree with Dave Morgan, (in term of the beauty of the game.)
    "The problem is teams go out to avoid losing instead of winning"
    So the entertainment can be boring!

  • Comment number 34.

    Melon62,
    "it would be a BRITISH LEAGUE not an amalgam of four 'countries' which really do not exist. My passport says that I am from the UNITED KINGDOM of GREAT BRITAIN and NORTHERN IRELAND - that is the name of OUR country!"

    Many thanks for your knowledge,
    What about Munster,Leinster are they not teams from a country IRELAND/EIRE (Member state of the EU).

  • Comment number 35.

    Hi John,

    It's great you've got your thinking cap on because Scottish rugby really needs ideas like this to take it out of the slump that it's been in for a while now. Promising signs of late aside.

    As an Irishman though, I think we'll keep the status quo having won the Heineken European Cup on 4 occasions.

  • Comment number 36.

    "Yes we used to play them on a regular basis in the amateur era, but they needed us more than we needed them."

    Gone on then explain that one Owinwhateveryournameis

    You need our sky money and there is no way France are going to join the 'Celtic' teams for the same reason the English clubs wont...is would be a step backward in every sense. The Celtic league in terms of a professional stucture is years behind England and France so why would we join it?

    Doesnt make sense, also if there was a league who would be in it? how many teams are we talking? if it is say 12 that would mean out of a 24 current first tier sides in Britain and Ireland 12 would miss out on the perks of being in the top league so no one is going to agree to that. Isnt it enough already that the MAgners league have more teams in the HC than anyone else, now they are looking to take some GP revenue too.

  • Comment number 37.

    I think many problems that lead to your suggestion (i.e. for more consistently competitive rugby) stem from the number of games top teams are expected to play in the NH. Due to the nature of rugby, players cannot play two games a week and perform at top level (as is the case with football - and even in this example they suffer burn out) and therefore, teams and players have to focus their attention on one or the other competition due to injury levels and the lack of strength in depth in squads (bar a select few).

    I think there are several issues/changes that could be made:

    1 - Matching salary caps in French, English and Celtic leagues - France have a massive advantage in this area at present and if I were a betting man I would put money on a dominant French gap opening up here in the future if nothing is done to compete with this. A larger salary cap allows teams to attract a larger quantity of high calibre players giving real strength in depth for replacements throughout the season - something that is very necessary with the number of injuries sustained on average.

    2 - A club rugby playing break/freeze in the French, English and Celtic leagues during the autumn internationals and six-nations, with the 6N being condensed to a game every week. Compare this to football and think of the uproar if clubs such as Man Utd and Chelsea lost all their best players for 10 weeks a season due to international duties....

    3 - Condense each of the three top NH leagues to 8 teams with the bottom three clubs being relegated and the top 4 making play offs and a smaller (but more competitive) Heineken Cup. This would raise not only the standard of each leagues but also the feeder leagues for each.

    To say that relegation would lead to a boring style of play is, in my opinion, short sighted. Teams would need to play a winning style of rugby, whatever that may be, and this is predominantly affected by the rule changes that take place and their interpretation rather than risk of relegation. This season is a fine example with boring game after boring games the first half season to a much more exciting attacking style being adopted 2nd half after a change in the interpretation of the rules. However, teams need to be able to close down and finish off games in the last 20 minutes, if they are to gain ultimate success.

    Playing a reduced number of games but, in turn, increasing the priority on achieving victory in each game would develop greater mental strength and winning mentality in NH players that is dearly needed if we are to turn tide on SH dominance and, surely, international competitiveness (the pinnacle) is what club level competition should be creating (and entertaining in the process).

  • Comment number 38.

    Phil- Totally take your point on the number of H-cup titles - sorry for that, although if you take the runners up (didn't take the time to check the semi finalists) into account the story is different.

    The other points I make do stand and in particular I do not agree with John on the relegation argument - as I say the top few teams in the GP or the Top 14 (especially) are leagues apart from the bottom tier. No way you will see a team like Toulouse or Clermont looking in the face at relegation.

  • Comment number 39.

    Why on Earth would English clubs forego what they have spent years building by inviting Welsh, Irish or Scottish teams to join their league? English rugby attracts big money and big names because it is better than its local counterparts. When your leagues and players are of the same standard as those in the Guiness Premiership then you can come to the bargaining table. I watch the Magners and Guiness leagues and there is no comparison. I can already hear the Welsh bleating about Heineken Cups and Thirty years ago but get real boyos. You have nothing to offer the likes of Wasps, Sarries or Leicester.
    John has a point but there is no way the English or French clubs will break from what they have to form an alliance with sub standard opposition.

  • Comment number 40.

    Jiminoz you need to start watching rugby mate, Cardiff just saw off the Wasps in the Amlin!

  • Comment number 41.

    Fordie- In terms of runners up France have the most with 9, then England with 3, Ireland with 2 and Wales with 1. I think your assessment of the top14 is correct in that the top and bottom teams are leagues apart. However in the GP I think you may be off the mark a little. My own club (Newcastle) won the English premiership in 97/98, but have been battling relegation for at least five years. Sale Sharks won in 05/06 yet four seasons later they were in a real relagation battle.
    There are also the likes of Bristol, Harlequins and Northampton(HC champions 99/00!!!) who are huge clubs; yet they have all been relegated in the last 10 years.
    The only club in the GP that seems completely safe is Leciester Tigers. So I would conclude that the GP is quite possibly the most competative club competition (whether it is the best or not is a matter of debate) in the world.
    I do agree with you in that a British (& Irish) league would not work and is not neccessary for either the English clubs or the Celtic clubs. The celtic clubs work on a regional system and the English on a club system. There is no way that a regional system would work in England because England has too much history and tradition in it's clubs. I could never see Leciester merging with bitter rivals Northampton to form a midlands club, or for Bath, Gloucester and Bristol to form a South West club. It simply isn't feasable for the English or the French to try and compress their clubs into regions. I also think that the Magners league does not need the English and the Guiness premiership doesn't need the celtic teams, both leagues are successful in their own right. Why fix what isn't broken?

  • Comment number 42.

    best beattie blog in a while. The solution might be little off the mark, but the point is absolutely true. The magners is miles of the english prem and the french top 14. Relegation would help of course but the magners lacks the intensity of the guinness premiership mainly because teams and fans dont fully back it.
    With the playoff system and heineken cup places to fight for most teams have something to play for at the end of the season. The problem is that sides play second teams for 'lower grade' magners games and fans dont show up for them. Why do welsh fans only turn up for welsh derbies? lets choose to make the magners important. When leicester won the prem their was nothing but joy from cockerill, but when the ospreys won the magners holley basically said that it was a decent second prize after losing to biarritz. if you saw saw the scenes in paris and clermontferrand after the top 14 final you would understand what that trophy means.
    Relegation would be lovely, but it aint gonna happen. What can happen is that clubs and fans start treating the magners league with the respect that a competition with some truly quality sides deserves

  • Comment number 43.

    The real problem is Scotland needs more than two professional clubs!!!!! The both qualify for the HC every year!!!!! come on. Scotland should have at least 4 clubs. And yes I know what you are all going to say "SRU don't have the money", either does the Irish or Welsh to support 4 clubs, but they do.

    Two leagues of 8 teams in the ML, 4 from each country Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy.

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 45.

    Just a couple of things to say John:-

    1) I'm sure the Connacht fans or whoever would finish bottom of the Celtic League appreciate the stability that comes from a lack of relegation. If we did have a British league, how far down should the pyramid system operate to? How can we work out which clubs get relegated if they all come under the same RU? How would the new Italian teams fit into this.

    Rugby is just naturally different in England from Scotland, Ireland and Wales simply because of the size and resources available. I was lamenting last night the crowd of 8,000 watching the Scotland - Japan game compared to how much the English would get until I realised that their capital has more people in it that our entire country. Given how different England is to the three Celtic Unions, we're better off trying to improve our own league than tie in with someone elses.

    Besides, in rugby, so much more than football, England do not need us.

    2) This has really irked about your blog. Maybe you'll know more being a coach in a Premier 1 team than me farting about the Regional leagues, but rugby is "open" to player payments. Calling the Scottish league 'shamateur' is a bit of a cheap pop at the strength of our club game given that the clubs can pay as little or as much as they want.

    The phrase you were looking for is "semi-professional" I believe!

    Still, enjoy reading these blogs though.

  • Comment number 46.

    I agree with Dave, the Guiness Premiership is slow and games aren't high points until the end. Further to this, the super 14 has some of the most exciting games throughout the season sure the final of the Guiness Premiership this season was better but more often than not the Super 14 has the best games, and they dont have relegation.

  • Comment number 47.

    I'm not sure how the Irish teams could light up a 'British' league but I'm sure they could on whatever planet you are on John.
    I disagree about relegation and the pressure it poses on all sides. If we had relegation it would mean an Italian side going down to a lower league with a new whipping boy coming up to the Magners. The top teams would never fear relegation. Did Leicester even think about relegation this season? I think not.

  • Comment number 48.

    Actually let this speak for us Magners fans

    http://www.planetrugby.co.uk/story/0,25883,16016_6189158,00.html

  • Comment number 49.

    Personally i believe the Magners League is getting stronger every year and the proof of it is in the winning of HC by both Irish teams this is good for the rest of the teams in the magners league as they have to beat the best in europe ..also i notice the BBC puts far more coverage on the GP final even though the GP is subscribed to SKY!!! and should be far less partisan about it, its the same with the national papers total coverage for the GP final and a small snippet in the corner for the Magners final. thats why its more lucrative and more attractive to investment.
    personally i dont believe club rugby can be run like a football league and besides the established rugby clubs are pretty much set in stone in the GP,relegation doesnt translate well in rugby!
    Put it this way MAGNERS team top four Leinster/Munster/Ospreys/Cardiff carry huge amount of talent and can defeat most/all other Euro clubs!

    the only team i consider up for it are Leicester in the GP whereas if i were a tiger fan i would have quite a few teams to choose from who were up for it!!

  • Comment number 50.

    Each league has it's merits. I can't really add much to what has already been said on that matter. I can only really conclude the following points:

    1. Scotland is the weak link in the Celtic competition.
    2. The Magners is better for the inclusion of the play-offs and the competition for Heineken Cup places (for the Irish & Welsh reions at least)
    3. To create a Brtish & Irish league that worked, the english would have to create regional sides. That means tearing up the current (successful) set-up.

    I just can't see it happening. Rather it is incumbent on the Celtic Unions to work on improving the Magners.

    1. With the inclusion of 2 Italian teams we will have 12 teams. Wales are putting together a semi-pro North Wales region. If they can be successfully established and the Scots can bring a 3rd side to the league that makes 14 sides. We suffer from extended gaps between games at present. Bringing it up to 14 would solve that problem. Regular rugby goes a long way towards getting the punters in.

    2. The Scots for their own benefit must try to get an established 3rd region together.

    3. The Magners is a recent development and doesn't have the history of the English & French leagues. It'll take time for it's popularity to grow. The Welsh and Scots can't sit back and wait for that to happen. They both have to get off their butts and get the punters in!

  • Comment number 51.

    It may be that I'm too "stuck" on the British and Irish Lions. In my opinion, John does well to take a broad perspective in an important debate, 'though I too am troubled by the implicit exclusion of the French.

    There is indeed a bigger picture also to be considered. Ultimately, it is in British rugby's interest for the premier regional competition to bring on not only the best clubs, but also all clubs in the pertinent region, all countries in that region, and rugby in the region itself; and moreover not only rugby today, or rugby this season, but rugby for generations to come. (Personally, I would hope for a place for the French clubs in that, but practicability in light of the broader prspective adopted must prevail. Maybe France's destiny lies in Europe.)

    A narrower aspect, let's say development, might help to demonstrate what a truly broad perspective might involve. Speaking for myself, I think that whatever system of those discussed is adopted, it needs to have one eye on early identification, absorption and cultivation of young talent. Maybe a more modern academy system will do it, or maybe we can look to a time when encounters between clubs involved encounters between all the teams of those clubs, in every age grouping and division, each competing in its own league. I don't really have an answer, but I do hope the debate and the resultant structure won't be confined to the spectator-rich first teams and defined by a narrow perspective which might be lucrative in the short term but fail in the long term to return northern hemishere rugby to its proper place.

  • Comment number 52.

    Poster at 50 makes some valid points and the main one is that Scotland are the weak link in the Celtic League. I doubt very much that this will change until there are some sweeping changes at SRU HQ.

    The current incumbents are hell bent on reducing the debt burden at the expense of growing the game quickly enough. The current domestic league structure is a mess with 6, yes 6, national leagues for a pool of players that is outnumbered by referees in England. For there to be any progress in the Scottish game this must be changed at the AGM this month.

    A third professional team is needed in Scotland (and a 4th) if the professional game is to grow and the if the Scots have any ambition to become competitive with the top nations. Here there are options and choosing any one of them will put some noses out of joint.

    Do the SRU invest in an existing club to bring it up to professional standard? If so, which one?

    Do the SRU create another regional professional team? If so, where?

    Do the SRU allow an outside investor to do either of the above?

    The SRU should be looking seriously at this issue because to do nothing is committing suicide.

  • Comment number 53.

    In response to your quote
    "There are Irish, Welsh and Scottish clubs that would light up a British league. A real league needs promotion and relegation. Magners League rugby is "prettier" but it's not as pressurised"

    I presume you know that Ireland is not part of Britain and therefore would not play in a "British League"

  • Comment number 54.


    John I think you have as we say in the "movie" business blown your load to early.

    You think because you seen a jaw dropping Premiership final that the Guinness Premiership has the best standard and most intense rugby. Well let me tell you, I have watched many an schools under 16's game that was "confrontational, tactical, abrasive and oh-so-good to watch" but that doesnt mean i think they should enter into the tri-nations.

    What you saw was 2 very matched teams battle with everything they have to win a title they so desprately wanted.
    If that was Sarcens or Leicester V Munster or Leinster...it wouldnt have been such a epic match...because of the difference in class. There would have been a great 40 minutes then the cream would rise to the top.

    The Heineken cup is the bench mark...and we all know how the Guinness Premiership teams did when they had to play the top teams in Europe...they flopped...embarressingly so.

    So i think you need to put things in perspective...although it was a great GP final...it was so because the two teams were perfectly matched and their average rugby made it look good.

  • Comment number 55.

    Phillip - I would love to see a Celtic league with 4 Welsh, Scots & Irish teams each. That would give the Scots a chance on the international stage. If that were to happen I'd like the WRU to shuffle their cards and sort out the current "super club" problem and have proper regions in Wales based on West (Llanelli, Swansea, Neath), South (Cardiff, Bridgend, Pontypridd), East (Newport, Ebbw Vale, Pontypool) & North (will need the establishment of semi-pro teams). Unfortunately I don't think that would happen.

  • Comment number 56.

    John - I have to disagree. I see little point in an British League. Ultimately, the English fans love the Guinness Premiership and the Welsh, Irish and Scots love the Magners. They are very different leagues and by the looks of the last two years Heineken Cup 1/4's, the english teams wouldn't be in it.

    The GP is great in its own right and the Magners is building very nicely thank you. Sky have ploughed a lot of money over the years into the GP and made it into the commercial animal it is today with huge crowds and tens of thousands watching on tv. The Magners is a different proposition, as we don't have the money, what we do have therefore is a rapidly growing product in terms of entertainment. Yes there are really terrible games, but that is the same in all leagues, but on the whole, as you mention, it is a far prettier competition.

    The arguements for and against relegation will continue ad infinitum, but ultimately they are irrelevant as neither league will change what works for them.

    As for your comment that the GP is the best, have you not watched the Top 14? That is by far the best league, in my opinon, in the world as its all round game is excellent.

    I would not like to detract however, from an excellent Grand Final. The Leicester v Sarries game was an absolute cracker!

  • Comment number 57.

    I'm just back from a day in England. Beautiful space, cricket games being played as I went by on the train, lots and lots of city types then having a drink in the warmth on Thursday evening in the middle of London. It was a poignant funeral I was at actually so if y ou don't mind can I be direct.

    JAmes Mathew - english rugby is tough, really tough. I still think it's the toughest most brutal league in our vicinity

    Livint20....... British and Irish league.

    Philip - we can't afford any more professional teams.

    totallybiasedscarlet - yes, all leagues have their strengths but I think British league would be great

    Mocko500 - shamateur was a shabby way of saying not amateur and professional in a little way. Yes, one of the things you do get with lack of relegation is stability but it also means that things that shouldn't really be there stay there.

    Hugues, a European league?

    Right, I will get back to this later, not really focussed today and have a great weekend.

    JB





  • Comment number 58.

    Thanks for the reply John. I think it's pretty easy to see how the Celts would put teams into a British league but I can't see how the English would do so. It's either a case of new English regional entities or choose which English clubs go in. Is it one tier or two? I can't see the English clubs going for a regional set up and I can't see the Celts going for a two tier competition (which it would have to be if you include more than 4 English sides) when there's a high risk many Celtic regions will end up in tier two when they're supposed to be the top professional sides in their countries. Consider if Glasgow or Edinburgh end up in division two of a British & Irish league - that would be disastrous for Scotland.

    I think it's a nice idea but I just don't see how such a merger would work. Personally I'd love to see a World series between the British & Irish Lions, France, New Zealand, South Africa & Australia - home & away matches and play-offs to decide the winner. Fantastic ... but I couldn't see the home nations agreeing to it. Far too much vested interest, and it would be the same for a British & Irish League.

  • Comment number 59.

    Joh, as you say, it's the best league. Basically Edinburgh and Glasgow would struggle in that league. If you take all the Magners teams and all the GP teams, they would struggle to be in the top half - so they wouldn't end up in the top division. How would that benefit our players?

    In US sports, all the pro leagues are closed shops and they manage to have highly competitive leagues. It's all about managing it.

  • Comment number 60.

    Now that the initial Magners league fanboy chest beating is over finally some excellently considered posts are coming out.

    John, you raise some interesting points however I'm in the "nice idea but not practical" camp. The only way England could partake in the Magners fun is to have a regional setup. Having invested so much into the current club setup and just starting to see some returns, the chances of that are slim and none and slim is out of town.

    To everyone else, ok we get it, the Magners league (Ireland) has done well in the last two years in the Heineken. When discussing the strengths of the two leagues it not as meaningful as you think. In 2007 Northampton made the Heineken semis, they were relegated the same year. In 2008 both Saracens and London Irish made the semis and were within a whisker of reaching the final but neither made the playoffs.

    My point is that in England, as in France its almost as much an achievement to qualify for the Playoffs as it is the reach the last 4 of the Heineken Cup. As John says, it is a tough league. I'm in no doubt that if the Magners league had to play to that intensity for 28/30 weeks a season they would almost all struggle.

  • Comment number 61.

    John

    I have always enjoyed reading your blogs, even if I often do not agree with many of them!! However in this instance I agree completely. Im english, but go to university in glasgow, so have watched many matches both in the premiership and in the magners league. The difference in intensity at times is dramatic at times. Quite often the magners league throws up some very pretty rugby, and its all very nice, however there is no fear of losing, I am sure there must have been (but I do not remember many) magners league matches being fought tooth and nail to the dying minutes which so often has premiership supporters on the edge of their seats as teams fight to avoid relegation. Just look at Bath this year (my home team), up until christmas this monumental team was staring right at relegation but fought so hard to get as far up as the semi finals! This shows some amount of character which the Magners league is lacking (in my opinion).

    I understand that HC is a huge competition, and rightly so, however the best teams in the world have to also be fighting day in day out with other top teams to remain at the top of their leagues - look at biarritz and toulouse, rather then just playing in a league which is non relegational and thus does not matter if they win or lose, thus the depth of squads, introducing new young talent becomes all that more important. I also know from Leeds, that their ability to stay up this year was almost as sweet as those teams that made the play offs. Thus making every league game essential to win whether your at the top or at the bottom!

    Keep up the blog, even if at times its just to stir a reaction... Booing at JW when he was kicking or when being taken off at murrayfield was a definite low point for scottish rugby!

    PD

    p.s. I understand the reasonings behind Glasgow moving from Hughenden Road and finally ending up at Partick Thistle's ground, however the atmosphere has never been the same, going down on a murky friday night to watch some of the top boys in rugby play at what is now my local club's 1st 15 pitch was something special. The atmosphere was immense, BBQ's on the side of the pitch bar next to the ground, always sold out (admittedly with a rather low capacity crowd!) but all the same, everything that rugby should be. p.p.s rather similar to the rec ironically.

  • Comment number 62.

    I will just make one comment about a British league and that is six of the so called ML teams are basically development Test sides - two in southern Ireland, two in South Wales and two in the two big scottish conurbations - with two more to follow from Italy.

    Therefore suggest England has two development international sides, North/Mids and South/West England - THEN you can have your Combined League....

  • Comment number 63.

    John, I think you miss a fundamental point of the Magners League clubs, as pointed out by Recwatcher, that they are as much about the development of their National teams as about success at Club level.

    English (and French) clubs are privately-owned commercial entities whose primary purpose is to win Club competitions. Hence they can afford huge squads of players and battle to win games in every competition they play.

    Magners League clubs are nursing grounds for International players, who play in the Heineken Cup, the 6 Nations, the Autumn Internationals and some of the Magners League games. In the 'other' Magners League games coaches give exposure to younger developing players, in the equivalent English or French games those places are filled by foreign mercenaries.

    Irish teams, for example, are limited to 6 'overseas' players in their squad, so that most of the provincial places are reserved for developing Irish players. (Note that the French are apparently starting to follow this example.)

    With relegation clubs cannot afford to spend 3-4 years developing a player, they need some-one who's ready now. This is why the Guinness Premiership has failed to develop talent for the English National team. In belatedly recognising this, the RFU has worked really hard at developing the Academy system, which is now starting to pay dividends.

    I think that these differing priorities account for the differing styles of play in the ML and GP, and are also why a combined league could not work. In addition, familiarity breeds contempt. The thrill of the Heineken Cup is in facing new challenges, the sole English or French team in each group and their Magners opposition.

    Finally, let me venture my opinion that Rugby would be better served by expanding, not contracting. In the short-to-medium term Italian rugby will benefit from joining the Magners League, but in the future we need to see new franchises developing outside of the 6 Nations countries. We need Romanian and German and Polish teams competing in the Heineken Cup, we need a strong Eastern European or Mediterranean League to compete with the Magners, Premiership and Top 14, we don't need a single homogenised Euro-League.

    All the best John, and keep writing the controversial things! ;)

  • Comment number 64.

    No relegation leads to disaster? Really. Franchise system like the Magners league doesn't seem to do the NFL any harm.

    Since the inception of the Magners League Wales and Ireland have won 6 nations grandslams but England haven't troubled the scorers. Apparently one appearance in the world cup final compensates, even if it was one with no chance of winning.

    And a british isles competition would make the heineken cup near pointless.

    The whole point of the regional system is clubs have feeder clubs beneath them.

    The whole idea is plain stupid. Why should celtic rugby bail out the guiness from its always scared rugby.

  • Comment number 65.

    Why on earth would we the English want to help the Welsh, Irish and particularly the Scots?
    They all want to go their own way in every other walk of life, so why should rugby be different?

  • Comment number 66.

    The Scots, Welsh and Irish boys seem to be missing the entire point of this argument.
    It isn't about 1 off matches or if the Europe needs one single super league... Its about branding... Nothing to do with rugby really.
    The best selling club shirt in the World is Leicester.. Followed by Gloucester and then Bath.
    Whilst the Guiness Premiership can still attract the crowds and this sort of revenue and exposure in its current format why would they want to change it to a system involving the Magners Clubs.
    We owe the Celtic Nations absolutely nothing so why should we allow them to jump on our gravy train.

    Its about time we started treating them with the sort of attitude they've tried heaping on us for years.
    Bring something to the table boyos or keep playing your mundane Friday night nonsense.

  • Comment number 67.

    I think that a lot of the above commets are valid.

    Yes there is a lot anti Celtic/English feeling towards a combined British League.

    Yes there is definitely a need for Promotion/Relegation and and expanded league.

    Yes it is unlikely the French would join the magners league, or any other.

    I think, heaven forbid, we learn from soccer.

    Look at the growth of the Premier League, look at the Champions League.

    The top games bring top crowds; top crowds bring revenue and attract TV, which brings additional revenue. When wisely reinvested this improves the standard of the competion.

    This improved competion brings bigger crowds, which brings in additional revenue, which attracts further TV...........

    A British League could be the start of this process so I agree with John.

    Just in case you think I am usually this diplomatic I aready have my USA shirt for Saturday... only 22 to go. Want to guess what one will be missing

  • Comment number 68.

    1, SKY TV drives the Premiership, Heineken and Magners, they're approval would be crucial, without it this is just another version of should Celtic/ Rangers/Hearts etc migrate to the EPL.

    2, Scotland has no real broadcast media contract for Rugby and given the minority sport status it has or has been accorded don't see this changing.

    3, It's not about playing Sport it's about Professional sport for increasing sums of money and profile, which helps clubs attract quality players in sufficient numbers to play the games scheduled domestically and others.

  • Comment number 69.

    Is there any knowledge or consideration in the BBC or do you just willfully degrade other countries? Some fact checking would suffice, even.

    John, I would willingly provide you with any resource you needed, be it books, the internet, or a tutor, to plug the holes in your knowledge. Geography, History and Politics must not be your strong points, but all is not lost. We can fix that.

    Ireland can refer to the island, or to the state of the Republic of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is an country independent of the UK, and a EU member state. It can in no way, shape or form, be construed as being part of Britain.

    Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, but neither is that a part of Britain.

    I thought we had gotten past all of this. Clearly you are a relic of past era. Your colonial days are gone, son, move on. At the very least, buy an up to date map.

    As for the rugby side of things, we neither need nor want this. The Magners League and Guinness Premiership will never merge, so give it a rest.

    As for relegation, what an impressive straw man you have created. Your logic is that the ML does not involve relegation, so therefore it must be a poor standard of competition. Well here are some other tournaments that don't involve relegation: The Super 14 (soon to be the Super 15) and the Air New Zealand Cup. So that's the multinational SH tournament and the domestic tournament of New Zealand, traditionally rugby's best side. My my, how badly a lack of relegation affects them. Poor them, and us, let's all go for the Guinness Premiership model. Or how about other sports, such as the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. No relegation. Better merge them with the Guinness Premiership too, then. They need the higher level of competition.

    Save us from ourselves, John, we know not what we do. And while you're at it, invade all of our countries too. Just to make sure you can rule us all again and stop us destroying ourselves without your guiding touch.

  • Comment number 70.

    Eummm you want a British league with Irish teams? Wake matie ain't going to happen... Simply because Ireland ISNOT part of Brittain... Yes a PART of Ulster is Brittain (contested) however they get their funding from the IRFU not their English equivalent and their players play internationally for Ireland.

    Case Closed keep dreaming pal!

  • Comment number 71.

    @#68 Magners League was not screened on SKY only the Heino and EPL

  • Comment number 72.

    Is this the same lowly Connacht that beat Worcester and Montpellier home and away in the Challenge Cup this year? The Magners League is going from strength the strength with the inclusion of the Italians next year. Why change a good thing? I can understand why Guinness Premiership teams want to be a part of it but the Magners is doing just fine as it is thanks.

  • Comment number 73.

    Solidmuck- Wow Connacht beat the worst team in the GP (who are now in the championship)! Is that supposed to mean anything?

    The fact of the matter is- despite all of the nationalistic nonsense in these comments -both leagues are successful in their own right and are run in ways that would make a merger impossible. I think it is fair to say that the GP does not need the ML and the ML does not need the GP.

  • Comment number 74.

    John, just a couple of things about your response.

    1. Why not? (This is not a glib reply, I really would like to know. The SRU keep saying that it is not affordable and then they keep shouting down anybody who wants to try - London Scottish being the latest case in point)
    2. Your statement being the case then we cannot afford to languish in the second or third division of a British (and Irish) league.

    With the current state of Scottish rugby a British league would be a disaster for Scotland.

  • Comment number 75.

    I have to agree that if there was a "British" league it would end up with the English and Irish teams in the 1st division and Wales and Scotland teams in the 2nd division. This would give the 1st division teams even more clout and power.

    Just look at the difference in quality in the football leagues (and indeed the FA's). The last thing we need is the richer teams getting richer and more powerful and leaving the minnows behind.

    The current league system is fine.


    I would however like to see more European teams getting involved to widen the Rugby Union appeal. The inclusion of 2 Italian teams in the Magners League is a great idea and warmly welcomed as it'll help the Italian National team too

  • Comment number 76.

    genericususername47 - so I take it you think it should not be the British and Irish Lions?

    Philip - I'll have a look at the accounts - I am pretty sure that each pro team costs £3m, and the SRU doesn't have that much profit for another one.

  • Comment number 77.

    John. Probably for another debate but to counter your reply to genericusername47 there is a case for a single British and Irish team playing tests instead of the 3 home nations and Ireland playing separately. Britain & Ireland with France and Italy in a northern hemisphere 3 nations!!

  • Comment number 78.

    John,

    I am strongly in favour of promotion and relegation in any league in any sport. A key factor for that is for all clubs and teams to play with 'ambition'

    A closed shop in the top leagues does not give the opportunity for well run 'ambitious' clubs in lower leagues to seek success and financial gains in a top league offers.

    A closed shop also allows clubs with less 'ambition' and perhaps poor management, to rest on their laurels due to the fact they do not have relegation.

    From a player and spectator perspective, it also makes the league far more interesting to have relegation battles at the end of the season as well as title battles. Just look at the 'ambition' and great management Leeds showed to put a string of wins together at the end of the season to stay up in the Guiness Premiership.

    As a grass routes player in the English county leagues I also like to see the same league rules and laws at all levels so we, as part of the rugby family, are all playing with the same ultimate goals and a level playing field.


    On your point for a British League including English Clubs:
    I totally DISagree from an English opinion and as it stands it will never happen.
    The reason is the same as it is for The Old Firm joining the Prem football, and Britain joining the Euro........We don't need it!!

    The English Premiership has large attendances, large TV viewings, plenty of strong existing rivalries, and an exciting league where every team has something to play for. That's why it gains large investment and that feeds down to my own Surrey County League 1 club.

    Magners teams are simply not needed to raise any of that. The Heineken Cup is that opportunity for English Teams and Supporters.

    I think Magers League is a great League and you also do not need to be part of the Premiership to find more excitement. Introducing promotion/relegation will enhance your teams 'ambition', improving weaker teams competitiveness. Go for that but don't waste your time looking to join the English Club league

  • Comment number 79.

    No John, I don't think you've followed my point. The British and Irish Lions is just fine, because that highlights the fact that Ireland is not a part of Britain. As I pointed out, The Republic of Ireland is a sovereign nation, a member of the UN and the EU. Give it its due and don't try claim it as your own.

    Northern Ireland is a different country to the Republic of Ireland. It is a constituent member of the UK, but not of Britain.

    To refer to the team as the 'British Lions' is to be condescending and degrading to the citizens of my country. I never said anything about the British and Irish Lions in my previous post, but since you brought it up, that name is fine. It represents the 3 nations of Britain - England, Wales and Scotland. It represents the 2 nations of the island of Ireland, which make up the Irish Rugby Team - ROI and NI.

    By a similar logic, a 'British League' doesn't work. You make reference to Leinster, Munster and 'Irish Clubs' in your post. Where does the difficulty arise in seeing that this is wrong?

    If you were to name it anything, it would have to be a 'British and Irish League'. But as I pointed out, such a league would never exist because we do not need it. I hope this is clear for you now.

  • Comment number 80.

    I'm sorry, but genericusername47 you seem to be very caught on this whole name thing. FYI - the British Isles are a group of islands off the northwest coast of continental Europe that include the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, and over six thousand smaller islands. There are two sovereign states located on the islands: the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

    Based on that would the name "The British Isles League" suffice?

  • Comment number 81.

    Willo77 - 'what's in a name' is the gist of your question. Your question is rational and well put - let's have a look at it.

    You're right, the 'British Isles' is a geographical idea, not a political one. Based on your logic, that name would be fine. I agree that it makes sense, but many Irish people do not enjoy the term 'British Isles' either. While it is geographical, it also carries Political connotations for many. The connotations being some sort of claim over our country. But anyway, that's not my point of view, I'm just articulating the dissatisfaction that would be felt. If such a league were ever to move past the hypothetical, the IRFU would never sign off on it being called the "British Isles League," because they know what reaction that would bring on them.

    That's a bit of a tangent to what originally drove me to comment though mate, John never brought the 'British Isles' into it; he used 'British.' Which as I've said is not correct, and is quite insulting really. To paraphrase the House Rules page, the BBC says that it welcomes feedback, both positive and negative. Unfortunately my feedback has been negative; had more care been taken in the writing or editing of the article, then my comments would have been purely about rugby.

    Finally, 'what's in a name.' Well, sometimes mate, there's a lot. What do Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia, Ceylon and the Gold Coast have in common? None of them are the proper names for Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sri Lanka and Ghana. They used to be, but not any more. In referring to those countries now, the BBC makes sure to show the proper respect and use the right name. How about following the same sort of logic and showing the Republic of Ireland the same respect?

  • Comment number 82.

    Genericusername47.

    Its a name.... give it a rest, it was a slip of the tongue. Im sure if it was to be seriously thought about, the 'title' to the league would be totally politically correct and cause no offence to anyone and be suitably beige just like the rest of society is becoming, but thats by the by. Im pretty certain everyone in the UK understands that the republic is just that and not part of the UK. Despite you calling NI 'disputed' i think you will find thats from a small minority, and may i preempt you and suggest you do not go down the religious route in arguing this point...

    But more importantly, this was a debate on whether or not a group of teams from a certain 'geographical area' could possibly play in league together and that it may actually benefit both sides. And on a separate note the relegation issue, which I admit there are many successful leagues which are closed. However personally I feel for our 'geographical area' it would best suite both leagues, it allows for ambition in the lower leagues to advance themselves, only allowing only the strong to survive. Oh and btw, the super 14 (15) league which everyone raves about being non-relegation, well not everyone in the southern hemispheres agrees with that, and there is plenty of debate down south as to whether its good or not.

    I hope we can bring the topic of conversation back onto rugby and away from politics.

  • Comment number 83.

    Promdate

    Might I suggest that you, too, check what you say before you post? Never did I say that Northern Ireland was disputed. Never did I say anything to that effect. Never did I say anything about religion, and no that was not going to come into it (on my part anyway). Why not? Because it has nothing to do with it. Absolutely nothing.

    My points were rational and well laid out. Don't muddy the waters by attributing things to me that I didn't say.

    Ironically, your talk of making things beige actually muddied the waters also. It has nothing to do with Political Correctness, it was to do with a failure of either knowledge (not realising Ireland wasn't a part of Britain, or not caring to show he knew the difference) or a failure editorially, to pick up on the fact it needed to be fixed.

  • Comment number 84.

    Oh get over it, this is the kind of nonsense that leads to conflict. You live over there, I live over here, whoopdeedoo! Lets talk about a league involving sides from the four home nations and who cares what Beattie called it!!!

    BTW I think it won't happen for the following reasons:

    1. Celts won't be happy about a two tier league (if you include the english prem teams)
    2. The Saes/Sasenach won't be able to sacrifice their clubs for regions (if such a league were based on regional franchises throughout)

    There isn't a happy medium - I can't see where the agreement for such a league would come from. You might put together a knock out british cup though. Top: 3 Irish, 3 Welsh, 8 English & the 2 Scots sides. 4 rounds, semi's & final on neutral territory. Better than the Anglo-Welsh!

 

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