Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Heineken Cup will take back seat in future

Telegraph Sport: where the debate really started

Keeping focus: English and Welsh clubs will be hoping for success in the Heineken Cup despite curent off-pitch problems
Keeping focus: English and Welsh clubs will be hoping for success in the Heineken Cup despite curent off-pitch problems

It's ironic that Ulster's biggest game of the season, against Leicester Tigers at Ravenhill on Friday night, comes in a tournament that has a very uncertain future.

The Heineken Cup has been a big hit but it now seems certain that changes are imminent given the dissatisfaction of the English and French clubs about the current format of the tournament.

But expect the event – in whatever guise – to take a back seat in the future.

That's because a world club tournament is a certainty.

And given the massive audiences – and hence potential revenue – that the English and French clubs can bring to the table, there will be guaranteed spots for both countries.

The champions of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa will also get the nod.

The Middle East would be the ideal venue as that would suit television and the clubs as a staging post between Europe/South Africa and Australia/New Zealand.

The likes of Dubai and Qatar would lap up the chance to stage such an event.

A six or eight-team tournament could be played off in little over two weeks.

Ulster's only route into this extravaganza would be as PRO12 champions or possibly as the top Irish province in that league.

The debate on the Heineken Cup's future may be raging at the moment, but soon it will be playing second fiddle to the big guns on the world stage.

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