Oval Talk

European League merely a bullying tactic

Oval Talk

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There has been a lot of talk this week about the possibility of a European League.

Peter Tom, Leicester Tigers chairman, has hinted at the idea but Oval Talk does not take this suggestion to be a genuine one, rather it is a ploy to remove the wage cap.

Last week Oval Talk looked at how the wage cap is just an excuse for why the English game is being held back. But it seems England's elite clubs are determined to get rid of the current spending restrictions.

Only a few of the Aviva Premiership's clubs make a profit and that is unlikely to change. And the richer clubs are keen to break the wage cap so they can extend the gap between themselves and the financially weaker clubs.

Of course the weaker clubs would never agree to such an idea but the fear of disbanding the Premiership in favour of a European League could scare them into doing so. It is nothing more than bully tactics; a simple threat which the big clubs know will work. The top clubs do not want to destroy the Premiership but the rest cannot take that risk.

And some people have even taken the idea seriously, which is just ridiculous. Nobody really has the stomach or the will for a European League; it would be a stupid move and this is why.

The Heineken Cup throws up some magnificent games from time to time but if you had the matches week in week out they would soon lose their mystique. It is like Christmas, for one day a year it is magical but if you had it every day you would be sick of it after a week.

Although fans would love the prospect, the sheer cost of supporting their respective teams would be too much for most, especially in these financially difficult times.

And unless the new European league enforced a rule stating each club must have a high percentage of players who are home qualified, clubs will end up buying the world's best players. That in turn would dilute the strength and significance of international rugby, just as we have seen happen to international football.

The European League would threaten not just the Premiership but would also weaken the likes of the Super 15 too. With no wage cap the European clubs could and would offer contracts far higher than they currently do and far higher than anywhere else in the world.

As for the Premiership, there would just be five teams from Leicester, Saracens, Gloucester, Northampton, London Irish, Bath, Harlequins and Wasps, who could take part. Subsequently three famous teams would fall by the wayside.

A European League would transform rugby union as we know it. Whether it is for the better is still very much up for debate but in Oval Talk's opinion the game would be ruined because of some clubs' desperate pursuit of money.

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