Dragons Rugby chairman David Buttress has backed a British and Irish League, saying that PRO14 stakeholders can’t shy away from ‘difficult discussions’ around the future of rugby.
Buttress was speaking with BBC Wales and says that he doesn’t believe in ‘advocating’ the status quo in the PRO14.
The idea of a British and Irish League has been doing rounds for some years now, with the Welsh regions often the most vociferous in championing the idea.
‘We should not hide away from the fact that the PRO14 needs to continue to improve,” said Buttress. “I’ll give you an example. The Bristol game we just played in the Challenge Cup, that game was on target to sell Ashton Gate out, if it wasn’t for COVID.
“Even four weeks before the fixture back in March, before it was cancelled, they’d already sold 16,000 tickets. So is there an interest in regional rugby and professional rugby? Yes. It’s massive.”
“There’s a massive underlying interest in watching high level, professional regional rugby. What we’ve got to do is make sure we shape a product, which is in line with what supporters and spectators want to get involved in.
“I for one would love to see some sort of an evolution towards some sort of British and Irish League, where there is regular cross-border fixtures, because I think that is the future. I think there is a lot of growth in it. In there lies a fantastic future for professional rugby and a growth opportunity, but we going to have to as a result there’s going to be some changes and maybe some difficult discussions.
“I think it will be a much better product at the end of it, that we leave behind as a legacy for supporters and in the end, surely that’s our job as people off the field responsible for trying to administer and improve and grow the game.
“I’d rather a legacy look like that than not have those difficult conversations and advocating the status quo because frankly I don’t believe in that.”
Buttress is not the only one supporting the idea. In late 2019 Ospreys chairman Rob Davies believes the situation is heading towards the formation of a British and Irish League that will forcefully drive new revenue streams. With the bulk of broadcast rights expiring in 2022, many believe that restructuring could take place in the lead up to what will be a pivotal year. The uncertainty in the sport due to the global pandemic could be an accelerant.
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