The European Rugby Champions Cup means Saints will continue to compete against Europe's elite © Getty Images
Club News Robson welcomes end of European uncertainty
Northampton Saints chief executive Allan Robson says that this week’s announcement about the future of European club rugby tournaments marks the start of a new era for the sport.
Thursday evening saw the end of weeks of speculation regarding the format of the European Rugby Champions Cup, European Rugby Challenge Cup and brand new Qualifying Competition.
Both the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will have 20 sides competing on a meritocratic basis, while the Qualifying Competition will see teams from a range of Tier 2 countries battle it out for the right to join the Challenge Cup and test themselves against more established clubs from France, England and the Celtic nations.
The European Rugby Champions Cup, in which Saints will be competing next season, will be played across nine weekends, guaranteeing a minimum of three home fixtures against Europe’s elite teams in the pool stages.
The top six sides from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14 will be joined by the top seven teams from the Pro 12, plus the winner of a play-off between the seventh-placed teams in England and France.
Robson says that the news means that clubs and supporters alike can start preparing for a higher standard of competition in 2014/15.
“The news is a massive positive for club rugby across Europe,” he commented. “With four less teams and meritocratic qualification the quality and integrity of the European Rugby Champions Cup will increase, and we believe this will have many positive effects in a number of areas.
“Meanwhile the Qualifying Competition will give smaller countries the wherewithal to develop through meaningful cross-border club competition, which can only be good for the sport as a whole in the build-up to the next World Cup and beyond.
“Rugby cannot rest on its laurels if it wants to grow, and I’m sure that in a few years we’ll look back at this moment as the start of a new era for the sport.
“More importantly, it means that we can all look ahead to next season free from the uncertainty which has dogged the past few months. We know that we will be playing a minimum of 16 home matches in competitive tournaments, and that Franklin’s Gardens will play host to the best teams in Europe.”
All three home pool matches in the European Rugby Champions Cup will be included in the Saints’ 2014/15 Season Ticket package, which can be ordered now from the Saints Ticket Office and online. Prices start from £163, with value-for-money deals available for adult-and-junior options.
For more information, including full prices, downloadable booking forms and instructions for how to order online, visit www.northamptonsaints.co.uk/seasontickets