Club v Country…..again

According to a report in The Rugby Paper Premiership rugby clubs are threatening to continue with their league programme throughout the World Cup in the autumn of 2015. A condition of England’s successful World Cup bid was that there was no elite competitive rugby during the tournament, which would mean the Premiership starting as late as November.

But Premiership Rugby are reportedly upset with the RFU because they weren’t consulted over the bid for the World Cup, and if they have to take an enforced break during September and October 2015, it would mean clubs facing a five-month period without any match-day income.

It is claimed each club is set to lose £1.2million and a compensation package of £14milliom from the RFU has been sought. The Union have offered £6million. Leicester Tigers chief executive Simon Cohen likened the situation as “going back to the bad old days of serfdom.” The World Cup was an agreement between the IRB and RFU to which the clubs were not a party,  so ” to simply expect us to close down our businesses is simply not acceptable.”

One feels that there is too much at stake on both sides for there not to be a compromise.The clubs have already started talks with the RFU about renewing the elite-player agreement which runs out in 2016. This has worked better than anyone from either side imagined when it was signed in 2008 after years of acrimony and trips to the High Court

One hopes the current dispute will be settled without recourse to our legal friends…..


European Rugby Champions Cup – Jobs for the Old Boys

We have only recently come to the conclusion of the two-year conflict between unions and professional leagues over the future of European rugby, a conflict which threatened to tear the European game apart.

Now it transpires that the organizers of the new European Rugby Champions Cup have been forced to sub-contract the running of the inaugural tournament to the very organization it was killing off! Ex-European Rugby Cup employees are to administer the competition for the whole of the 2014/15 season. European Professional Club Rugby , the new umbrella body, has entered into a “service agreement” with ERC, providing a stay of execution for the company which operated the European Cup from its inception in 1995 until the end of last season.

That is despite the chairman of Premier Rugby,Quentin Smith, on record as declaring ” there will no longer be a need for ERC” once a breakaway competition had been established . He also branded ERC as “no longer fit for purpose.”

It would appear that European Professional Club Rugby isn’t  so fit for purpose itself. Perhaps they are too busy house-hunting in their new base of Neuchatel in Switzerland.


Long Live the Heineken Cup……..

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) , the organizers of the new European Rugby Champions Cup, have finally announced the fixtures for the coming season,albeit only for the first two rounds, and much later than their condemned predecessor,ERC, managed in previous seasons.

EPCR have also announced that the first final under their auspices will be at ….Twickenham.Now that control of the event has passed from the Unions to the clubs after a two-year power struggle the new organizers have picked up where the old ones left off.

Whatever happened to the wonderful idea of spreading the gospel by exposing the Final to new audiences in new cities. The San Siro in Milan would have done infinitely more for the event as a genuine pan-European competition than Twickenham, or the Millennium Stadium,or Murrayfield for that matter.

The English-speaking Rugby Champions Cup with France would be a more accurate description.

From Milton Keynes to Twickenham

Rugby World Cup 2015 kicks off in just over a year’s time , so I have set myself the task of visiting the grounds being used to give a taste of what the visiting fan might encounter.

Much more information on all the stadia can be found on my website:

First up was stadiummk in Milton Keynes…………

August 9 2014
StadiumMK, Milton Keynes

Sky Bet League 1
MK Dons v Gillingham
Kick Off: 15.00
East Wing: Gate 5;Aisle 5:Row R;Seat 148: £20.00

MK Dons……4

Milton Keynes Dons Football Club, to give them their full name, but usually referred to as MK Dons (though not by former Wimbledon fans – see below…) were founded in 1889 as Wimbledon Old Central Football Club in south London. In 2003 the club changed its name when the current chairman purchased Wimbledon F.C and re-located the club 50 miles away to Milton Keynes with the permission of the F.A. This caused uproar, resulting in Wimbledon supporters forming a new club, A.F.C.Wimbledon.
M.K.Dons supporters and the club are nicknamed “Franchise F.C. due to the unusual way the club was formed. Few, if any, of the original Wimbledon supporters made the journey up the M1 motorway. In their short history the club have always played in the lower tiers , and currently play in League One, the third tier of English football.

StadiumMK has been chosen to host three matches at Rugby World Cup 2015, including the France v Canada game on October 1.
But despite its short history the stadium has already played host to rugby union.
In May 2008 Saracens played Bristol at StadiumMK because Watford needed Vicarage Road for a championship play-off. In 2011 Northampton Saints used the ground for Heineken Cup quarter and semi-final matches because their own Franklins Gardens was deemed too small. Saracens once again visited for their home Premiership fixture against Northampton Saints on December 30, 2012, while their new stadium at Barnet Copthall was still being built.
And next April Northampton Saints will play their home match against Saracens at Stadium MK as a trial run for the World Cup.

Normally it can take as little as half an hour to travel by train from Euston to Milton Keynes Central Station. Unfortunately I had picked a Saturday when the infamous “engineering works” meant that journey took almost five times as long, including two changes and a tedious bus journey between Watford and Hemel Hempstead.
One can only hope Network Rail do not select October 2015 for further repairs to the West Coast main line…
Once you make it to Milton Keynes Central (which is around four miles from the ground) Bill’s Minibuses currently run an efficient bus service to the stadium every 30 minutes. A one-way ticket costs £1 and the minibuses go from just outside the station entrance.

The club moved to their brand new stadium (which cost about £50million to build) in 2007. From the outside it has a modern look, with good use of silver coloured cladding and a large amount of glass on view. The most striking feature is the stadium’s roof, which sits high up above the ground with a large gap between it and the back row of seating which allows more natural light to reach the pitch. The stadium is totally enclosed and has a bowl like design.
The overall look of the stadium has recently benefited from the installation of seating into the previously unused upper tier. This will take the capacity to 30,700 for the World Cup. It is two-tiered, with three sides having a large lower tier over-hung by a smaller upper tier. The west side of the stadium is slightly different, with the seating areas in the upper tier being replaced by the Directors box and executive and corporate hospitality areas.Unusually the spacious concourse areas at the back of the lower tier see directly into the stadium, so where is what seems a noticeable gap between the lower and upper tiers is where the concourse is located.

Chatting with other fans the only major complaint about the stadium appears to be its location, as it is well away from pubs and food outlets. The vast majority were greatly impressed, commenting on the comfort and legroom in the seating, with excellent views of the action and a great atmosphere. The toilet facilities have been especially praised by many fans, male and female, offering wide entrances, soap and hot running water. Such luxuries at a football ground! The stadium even has such creature comforts as padded seats and the ability to watch the game in progress whilst munching a burger on the concourse.
In keeping with the infamous concrete cows of Milton Keynes, the club have a mascot called Mooie, whilst the South Stand is called the “cowshed.” No wonder that the locals have christened the stadium “The MooCamp”
Food and drink on sale at Stadium MK is on a par with most football stadiums in England in terms of both quality and cost. The difference here is that the concourses are large, and queuing is minimal due to the large number of kiosks.
The stadium is located adjacent to the A5, but well away from the centre of Milton Keynes, so there is little on offer in the way of pubs. Very close though are KFC and McDonalds outlets, plus a cafe in the Asda and I.K.E.A. next door.

And let’s not forget there was a game on…..MK Dons came from 2-0 down to beat Gillingham 4-2 in a match the visitors’ manager, Peter Taylor, will want to forget in a hurry. He saw his side concede two own goals in a game in which he had to use two goalkeepers and see his main striker limp off with a suspected twisted knee.
Cody McDonald put Gillingham in front after only seven minutes but had to be substituted early in the second half. Danny Kedwell doubled the lead from the penalty spot on 29 minutes. The Dons then found fortune when Kortney Hause put the ball in his own net after a mistake from his keeper Stuart Nelson – who failed to come out for the second half. His replacement, Glenn Morris, was unable to stop Will Grigg’s header for the home side’s equaliser. Another header, from Kyle McFadzean gave MK Dons a 70th minute lead before Aaron Morris also put the ball in his own net to give the home side a somewhat fortunate 4-2 victory.

Would that the rugby next year offers similar excitement……

Mike Miles