It’s make or break time for pro rugby across the world, with the first battlelines being drawn around the Pro 12 playing field.
The SRU might like to respond to Clubs that there are billionaires across the world looking to invest in Pro sport, and they’re not in it for a financial return, just a bit of prestige and to be wined & dined appropriately. Unfortunately, it’s looking like the Pro 12 cannot give these billionaires the appropriate prestige or perhaps the plonk that’s being served up is corked.
The Pro 12 Unions are desperate to compete at the same table as the English and French, but it’s looking increasingly likely they’ll forever be squabbling over crumbs dropped by the real billionaires involved in the Pro game. The Zebre story is just the latest in a growing number of examples that suggests the Unions ambitions exceed their ability to generate income from the product on the field.
In Scotland, we had an unhealthy rush to set up a NewCo via an SGM last October that has, as far as we can tell, led to no outside investor putting their cash on the table for a 49% stake in either Glasgow or Edinburgh, whilst in Wales we have the Dragons under direct control of the WRU and management of the Blues effectively saying they can’t afford to run the “franchise” and had suggested giving up the playing side of the business for the Union to run.
From an outside view, things appear little different in Ireland, where the provinces are in hock to the IRFU. The latest IRFU accounts state they budgeted for a deficit due to “funding problems facing all four Provinces”.
And now with Italy, we have Zebre being dissolved, withdrawing from the league, then being restarted under the control of the FIR and re-entered into the league.
I wonder how much more the Pro 12 Unions will sink into pro rugby before realising the futility of trying to match credit lines with the French and English.