Guinness PRO12
Guinness PRO12 could be expanded into conference system
ESPN Staff
April 3, 2016
© Craig Watson / PA Archive

The Guinness PRO12 season could be restructured to ensure matches are not played during international windows.

At present the PRO12 season -- like the Aviva Premiership -- continues during the Six Nations meaning the clubs are without some of their star names at various stages of the season. This has a detrimental effect on attendances and television viewing figures. To combat this, one proposal put forward is to either decrease the number of sides in the league or expand the competition with the division then split into conferences.

The focus is to create more 'flash points' in the season. In an interview with Wales Online, the PRO12's managing director Martin Anayi says he is focused on improving the league's appeal meaning they need to have the star names featuring in more of the games. He favours the expansion option which would see conferences being introduced and could potentially offer London Welsh and London Scottish places in the league.

"We have more international players than any other competition, but we play games in the international window," Anayi told Wales Online. "That is self-defeating. In that period of the season, crowds and TV audience are down by 45 per cent. That is where we need to tweak things. 

"With the star players missing, it creates the perception that it's a development competition. We recognise that perception and we need to address it. We need to give people more reason to watch our teams more often and that means the international players. It's not a maybe, it's a must.

"We are going through a consultation process at the moment, but the overwhelming consensus of the chief executives is let's make positive changes that are good for the tournament. You have to be creative. If you going to play all your games outside of the international window, then you either have to look at a reduction in the number of teams or look at a different structure to the season with conferences, which allows you to expand."

This would benefit the Italian sides who currently lie rock bottom of the PRO12. Anayi says expansion would allow the two teams to have a "really good crack" at realising their potential.

© ESPN Staff

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