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PRO12 Looks To Transition Into The Atlantic Rugby Championship
- Updated: February 20, 2017
With news emerging in recent months about the possible death of PRO Rugby and the establishment of a Major League Rugby competition, it is looking more and more likely that the PRO12 will act on the rumours of expansion into North America.
A report from the Scotsman newspaper has revealed new information regarding the possible expansion of the PRO12 into North America, both in Canada and the US, beginning in the 2018/19 season.
Houston, Texas seems to be the favoured candidate for a US based franchise, backed by the fact that PRO12 CEO Martin Anayi was recently there meeting with interested parties. However, no information on a possible venue is yet available.
However, an Irish consortium is apparently lobbying for a franchise in New York while Harlequins are also interested in establishing a franchise.
Northward, it looks like Toronto will house the Canadian team, sharing the BMO Stadium with Toronto FC. Weather is a concern here, with temperatures dropping below freezing from December to February. However, plans are in place for a new roof to be built on the stadium. Vancouver has also been proposed as an occasional backup but long-haul flights from Europe may be a contentious issue for the current teams.
The PRO12 will be offering a five-year deal, however, Celtic Rugby Ltd, who own ten percent of the PRO12 have a set of pre-requisites for any potential team including:
- Major city backing, a requirement for any sports franchise in North America.
- The backing of USA Rugby and Rugby Canada.
- A squad of 40 professional players.
- A suitable stadium.
- A management team with the required experience.
With the addition of two new teams, PRO12 are opting to split the league into two divisions rather than extend the league. The teams will split into two divisions of seven. Each team will play the other six teams in their division twice, home and away. The teams will then play each team in the opposite division once, either home or away. The regular season would then amount to 18 games, four fewer than the current setup. How the teams would be split and whether the divisions would be reshuffled yearly is yet to be determined.
The playoff structure in this new league will be an adaption to that in the French Top 14. The team that finishes top of their division will receive an automatic semi-final place while those that finish in second and third places will face off in a quarter-final, adding an extra round to the playoff format of the current PRO12.
Every effort is also being made to accommodate and not impede the growth of a domestic competition. These new franchises would join a successful domestic competition at the first opportunity, should professional rugby take off in North America.
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