An OSC representative spoke to Tom McCormack of Pro12 yesterday morning regarding the announcement of the Pro12 final venue. (27th January 2015)
The first question raised was in regards to the following: Why has a final venue been arranged mid season, when there are still 9 rounds remaining, and not as in past seasons where the highest placed finalist has home advantage?
Meetings were held at the start of the season when schedules were discussed. It was agreed that 4 days turnaround would not be enough time to plan for a final. Therefore, a decision was made to announce a named venue in advance.
All members of the Pro12 were invited to tender with a Christmas period deadline to put these tender applications together. The tenders had to be submitted by 1st Jan 2015.
There were many things to take into account in regards to the tenders. A financial commitment in excess of £100,000 by the host stadium/team; two 5 star hotels for the two finalists and the backing by city authorities were just some of the stipulations for tender. We were advised that several clubs did not submit tenders including the Ospreys.
In regards to the advisement that the Ospreys had not tendered for the final, we felt it was important to speak to them about this and get their views as to why no tender was submitted:
Ospreys have advised us they were against the proposal for a change from highest placed team has home advantage to a neutral venue as they felt that the competition was not yet at that stage.
Given their stance on the proposal, they then felt it would be hypocritical to consider making a bid to stage the final, regardless of the team’s positive start to the season as this would put our team in a position where we could lose the home final ‘advantage’.
The financial commitment necessary to host the final is substantial. Whilst Ospreys financial performance has improved, and are now able to make calculated gambles, they don’t consider that they are in a position to take the kind of risk required. It’s not in the best interests of the business to do so.
Any bid for a final at the Liberty would have to be made in conjunction with the Stadium Management Company and Swansea Council. Ospreys advised they will assess the success or not of this year before considering whether it is in the Ospreys interest or not for future years to make a joint bid.
Only 4,000 of the 18,000 tickets would be allocated for the two finalists. That’s just 22% of the tickets available, which equates to just 11% for each supporter base for the final.
It was advised that Ulster have control of sales, and that whilst tickets will go on public sale on the 3rd February, Ulster supporters are likely to be given the opportunity to purchase tickets in advance of the public sale. Pro12 would not discuss the numbers involved, but when we advised that there could be potentially in excess of 10,000 tickets sold prior to public sale plus the allocation of tickets for finalists, this would leave only 4,000 tickets for general sale. No definitive answer on this was forthcoming.
When questioned on the re-sale of tickets, we asked what guarantees would be put in place if Ulster did not make the final. Could tickets be sold back to Pro12 for re-sale at face value? Could they ensure that tickets are not sold on the open market at inflated prices? It appears that no such provision is in place at the moment. It was suggested that ‘no true rugby supporter’ would ever do this and that they would only sell on at face value. We advised that this was a very naïve outlook to take. Pro 12 advised that this was a valid point and ticket sale discussions were still ongoing even though there is only a week to public sale.
All proceeds from the final would go to all 12 Pro12 clubs, with a higher percentage given to the two finalists.
This years final will be reviewed in regards to the success of the event and it will then be decided what will happen in future seasons. Currently, this format is not agreed as a permanent decision.
From the posts on Twitter and Facebook, Pro 12 can surely see that the majority of supporters are not happy with the way that this has been handled. It has been sold as this is for the good of supporters, I asked Pro12 how can this be for the good of supporters?
Supporters now have to buy a ticket if Ulster haven’t bought them all, book flights and hotel accommodation, and pay for this on the off chance that their team will be in the final. It seems the only supporters that this will benefit are those with limited travel who don’t have to pay for accommodation!
The comparison was made that supporters do this for Europe and in the Aviva. We advised that most people in Aviva do not have to fly to Twickenham as most people would travel there and back in a day. Supporters clubs also arrange coach travel as required as they’re all English teams.
In regards to the comparison to the European final, we advised that is was not a comparison that could not be made. It was pointed out that in no way could you compare The Pro12 to the RCC – the pinnacle of European rugby and the title every professional rugby team in Europe wants. Also, supporters are aware prior to the start of the season where and when this is being held.
This is apparently going to be a 3 day event with events happening on the Friday and Sunday as well for supporters to enjoy details will be disclosed at later date.
We asked why we had the final sorted but rounds 21 & 22 are still to be confirmed? They advised this is down to broadcasters. Something we found strange as the venue, date, time and broadcaster seems to have been sorted well in advance for the final with no issue.
We asked about the fixtures of games too. We asked if it could be confirmed that that all teams have agreed that they would play on Sundays; we were advised that was correct.
We then asked, if this agreement is with ALL teams, why is there not a fair allocation in that ALL 12 teams have to play on a Sunday irrespective of preference? Simply put, if you wish to be part of the Pro12 then as per the agreement you should have a fair allocation of Sunday games.
Two teams so far this season have had not had one home game on a Sunday and they do not have any scheduled in the next 7 rounds either. Out of these two teams only 1 has an away game scheduled for later in the season. That means 1 team has not a home or an away Sunday game within their fixture list this season. I am sure all would agree this is hardly a fair allocation of Sunday games as per the agreement.
There was no response forthcoming that could adequately explain this
Unfortunately due to work commitments I had to end the call but Tom invited all supporters to e-mail their questions or complaints to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
OSC will be submitting several more questions to Tom, and we will of course share the answers once received.
One last important point though; The PRO12 is a union owned/run competition. The only bids came from clubs owned by their respective unions. Does that come as a surprise? Were the bids made in the best interest of the clubs, or by their union owners in an attempt to vindicate an unpopular decision, regardless of its actual merit? Just something to think about
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