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Halliday: 'Commercially, it has disappointed'

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'Commercially, it has been a disappointment... lots of reasons for that'

Simon Halliday has admitted that the European tournaments run by EPCR haven’t been the soaraway commercial success people envisaged they would be.

The Swiss-based organisation fully took over from the Dublin-based ERC in 2015/16 following a 2014 civil war that resulted in English and French clubs breaking up the old set-up in the hope of generating additional finances.

A shared title sponsorship model was at the forefront of plans to increase revenues, but that ambition didn’t work out and the Champions Cup – which this season begins on Friday night with Gloucester hosting Toulouse at Kingsholm – reverted last term to a single title sponsor Heineken, who used to be the single title sponsor of the old ERC European Cup. 

Heading into his fifth season as chairman, former England international Halliday told RugbyPass: “Onfield, we have made a lot of good improvements. We have hosted good finals, we have changed one of the criteria so Benetton qualified by right this season, we developed free-to-air where there wasn’t any and brought it to more people. 

“Commercially, it has been a disappointment. Lots of reasons for that. The rebranding takes time. 

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“Secondly, a lot of sponsors have gone from being global into being pan-Europe, even local, so the way they allocate their money has changed, the way people look at traditional sponsorship has changed. Look what happened with Six Nations, for example. 

“And our domestic, I keep saying to people our domestic stakeholders [the clubs] are much stronger now than they were five years ago, so people can get exposure to rugby through our stakeholders as much as they can through us.”

With the 2015 World Cup hosted in England, the 2015/16 Champions Cup took quite a while to arouse much interest. However, Halliday doesn’t believe there will be any spectator fatigue heading into 2019/20 due to the latest World Cup being played in Japan. 

“You’d like to think so. Not just because a lot of northern hemisphere stars will be playing but a lot of the southern hemisphere stars play in Europe so once they are recovered from their rest periods, you would like to think that they will get involved and we will continue with that momentum.

“After the last World Cup the tournament took a while to get going because there was only so much that people could take on board, but I think the tournament is vastly improved from where it was four years ago in its format and the teams are very, very strong so yeah, there is real excitement still.”

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'Commercially, it has been a disappointment... lots of reasons for that'