Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

PRO12 being brought to new level

Telegraph Sport: where the debate really starts

Mark Anscombe is no longer the Ulster coach Mark Anscombe is no longer the Ulster coach
Mark Anscombe is no longer the Ulster coach

Rugby just never seems to have much downtime these days and, after last week's brutal removal of Ulster coach Mark Anscombe, it's back again though this time with a much more upbeat slant thanks to the announcement of Guinness as the new sponsors of the PRO12 League.

Yes, in the wake of Ravenhill becoming the Kingspan Stadium we have yet another rebranding and the iconic drinks giant are expected to be unveiled as new backers tomorrow with their involvement – for an initial two years – seen as just what the PRO12 needs to bring new drive and presence.

There is likely to be criticism over a drinks brand again being closely associated with sport but for Dublin-based league organisers Celtic Rugby the key point is they have managed to secure a high profile sponsor with such a notable track record.

Having club rugby at European level sorted out – which has in turn resulted in a restructure for PRO12 qualification – doubtless helped in getting Guinness to sign on and there is nothing quite like stability elsewhere in helping persuade a big name get behind your product.

And when it comes to overall promotion, the PRO12 can only benefit from the huge experience Guinness have already banked through Ireland's autumn internationals and the knowledge gained from their former sponsorship of the English Premiership.

Throw in Sky Sports – who'll screen 33 matches live next season as part of a four-year deal – and Celtic Rugby are in the right place to take the PRO12 to a new level.

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