The number of derby fixtures in the 2017-2018 Pro 12 season looks set to be cut with rumours of the competition being split into two leagues. Meaning that teams from the same country would potentially be split into separate groups.
According to the WalesOnline, each group cannot hold more than two teams from one country. For example, teams in ‘Group A’ would play each other home and away, whereas they would only play teams from ‘Group B’ once during the regular season.
The possible change will not be viewed favourably by supporters, derby matches in each country have long been a highlight of every rugby fans calendar, especially over the festive period.
Derby fixtures attract bigger crowds and bigger viewing figures. This may make the decision appear unwise however any loss the clubs or league incur is negated by the probable TV and sponsorship money the two South African franchises will bring to the table, reportedly in the region of ten million pounds.
Rumours filtering out appears to indicate that the committee intend to split the league using last seasons standings, working their way alternatively down the league. Meaning that the team who finished first (Munster) last season would go into ‘Group A’ while the team who finished second (Leinster) would go into ‘Group B’.
If this is the case then ‘Group B’ would have Munster, Scarlets, Ulster, Blues, Edinburgh, Zebre and one of the two joining South African franchises. Then in ‘Group B’ there is Leinster, Ospreys, Glasgow, Connacht, Treviso, Dragons and a South African franchise.
This would be a dramatic overhaul from the current design. The competition has used a one league system culminating in a play-off structure since the 2009–10 season to determine the champions, similar to that used in the English Premiership. Until the 2008–09 season the champions were determined from league performance.