Martin Anayi believes the best clubs in the world are in the Pro 14.
There has been a lot of talk and coverage concerning the new Guinness Pro 14 after South African sides The Cheetahs and The Southern Kings have been included for the upcoming 2017/18 season.
Martin Anayi, CEO of the Guinness pro 14 has now come out and said that Munster and Leinster are the equivalent of Manchester United and Real Madrid in rugby term due to their success and huge following. According to the CEO
“We play a great brand of rugby and we come with arguably two of the biggest clubs in the world in Munster and Leinster,”
“In terms of support and fan base they are the biggest two in the world. Then you have got great clubs like Scarlets, who won our league last season playing a super brand of rugby, and Glasgow Warriors.
“We have had four different winners in four years playing an attractive brand of rugby – World Rugby’s stats show we have the best statistics for ball in play and attack.”
Anayi goes on to make a good point about how the Pro 14 teams like Munster, Leinster, Ulster, Glasgow, Scarlets and Ospreys will now compare to Super Rugby franchises which was always question on pundits and fans lips.
“That answer we will get very shortly, We do pride ourselves on our competition – that’s what we are about.
“We want to be that point of difference, we want to be an attractive proposition and we want to bring in new fan bases.“We see ourselves slightly different to the rest of the leagues in Europe. We play a different brand of rugby because we don’t have promotion or relegation.
“Now, with moving to a new-format Conference model, that will push forward with more teams playing more knockout rugby.”
The new format will see the first ever trans hemisphere competitive league and will definitely heighten peoples interest in a competition, that in the last few seasons has gone downhill in terms of viewers and standard of rugby.
Anayi further added that if the introduction of these Super Rugby franchises is a long term success then it could open more doors for other South African franchises to make the move up north too.
The South African sides left in the new Super 15 are The Bulls, The Lions, The Stormers and The Sharks after what has been a fairly unsuccessful couple of seasons in the Super 18 format culmination in the axing of the two New Guinness Pro 14 sides and Australian side The Western Force.
The new Super 15 deal is up at the end of the 2020 season and Anayi thinks more teams could look to move away from the competition.
The CEO, who seems very confident about the potential of the Pro 14, hopes that they will be in a strong position come 2020 to maybe entice teams from New Zealand or Australia, emphasising the two pools system currently in place where teams might only have one or two long trips as well as having room for more teams.
Anayi also claimed plans of intrducing American franchises had to be put on hold now the South African franchises have been included.
“We looked at lots of different things when going through the process of looking to expand the tournament,”
“Teams in South Africa play the same sort of attractive style of rugby we played in the Guinness PRO12.
“The timezone works pretty well also – it is just an overnight flight so that area was taken care of.”
He went to explain that audiences in South Africa were bigger than those of their US counterparts aiding the decision of bringing in The Cheetahs and The Southern Kings.
“Commercially it makes sense with such a big and passionate fan base here in South Africa.
“It is not to say that door is closed in North America, it is just that this is a compelling opportunity for us at this stage.
“A big part of the last two years was to create a format and structure that allows us to grow further. It is clear our future is in expansion, not contraction.”
On the topic of South African teams competing in The European Champions Cup in the future the CEO didn’t rule anything out saying
“In the future it makes a lot of sense. However, how well the teams (Kings and Cheetahs) do in our league will go a long way to furthering an argument for Europe,”