English Rugby
Cotton: Summer season is nonsense
ESPNscrum Staff
December 18, 2011
If the summer season is adopted then images like this - with Fran Cotton to the left - will be a thing of the past © Getty Images
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Former British & Irish Lions prop Fran Cotton has rubbished reports that England could be set to turn rugby into a summer game.

Following Bath owner Bruce Craig's declaration that discussions are afoot to switch the domestic season from winter to summer, Cotton - the former chairman of Club England and a member of the Rugby Football Union's management board - is adamant that any switch is unlikely but concedes that a match between the best of the Northern Hemisphere and the Super Rugby champions could work.

"The issue of a global calendar has been going for as long as I've been involved in rugby," Cotton told the Daily Mail. "Facilities and conditions have improved beyond recognition since that famous photograph of me was taken when I was playing for the Lions in New Zealand on the 1977 tour. It is extremely rare to see rugby played in those conditions anymore because the quality of venues is so much better.

"Besides, it would be impossible to rearrange a whole new global calendar with World Cups and Lions tours to accommodate as well, let alone introduce extra rugby into the schedule.

"At a push, I'd have no problem with a one-off world club cup between the winners of the Heineken Cup and the Super 15, possibly at a venue like Hong Kong before the sevens, but to have a full-blown competition in an already over-packed calendar is madness.

"I'd also do away with the Anglo-Welsh Cup completely on the basis that players today play too many games and nobody wants to play in the cup at all, or at least until it reaches the semi-final stages."

And Cotton also believes that England should adopt a franchise system or risk the likes of Sale and Leeds following Orrell into rugby oblivion. "There's no successful team sport in the world that doesn't now have a franchise system, and that includes the majority of rugby," said Cotton. "Only England and France have a club system and the French can afford to do so. We cannot.

"What worries me is that there is a great danger, with Sale's owner trying to sell the club but struggling to find a buyer, Newcastle suffering low gates and Leeds out of the Premiership, that there will not be a significant union force in the north. Wasps are in so much trouble that their owner, Steve Hayes, is trying to sell the club for £1 with all the liabilities taken on, and even the more successful clubs recently, such as Saracens, are entirely dependent on a rich benefactor who has lost millions.

"Right now, save for possibly Leicester and Harlequins, the clubs do not have a business model, just a dependence on benefactors."

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