The team line-ups for the GUINNESS PRO14 Conferences will remain unchanged for the upcoming 2018/19 season to ensure a balance of fixtures for all teams across the initial two seasons following expansion.
This decision comes after consultation with teams across the GUINNESS PRO14 to determine the best course of action for the Championship and all of the sides who compete in it.
The overriding factor in this decision was the ability to ensure equal home-and-away fixtures for each team across a two-year window. It also means that each team will have played away to all of the other sides in that same period meaning no fan will miss out on the diverse spread of talent that exists in the GUINNESS PRO14.
The first GUINNESS PRO14 season proved a hit with attendances, viewership and digital audiences all growing, while the Championship set a new try-scoring record thanks to the fastest rucks in world rugby (81% three seconds or less).
Entering his 15th season as Tournament Director, David Jordan said: “We are very satisfied with how the tournament, our teams and broadcasters handled the expansion into South Africa in the first GUINNESS PRO14 season and it is our responsibility to ensure we build upon that.
“Initially, we envisioned the Conference line-ups changing from year to year but having reviewed the previous season, it was felt that our teams would be better served working in a two-year cycle to ensure the balance of fixtures.
“Naturally, our teams have been energised by the expansion, but as key stakeholders in the Championship it was important to adjust the format to help them harness this enthusiasm in order to be successful on and off the pitch. The PRO14 was highly competitive last season and we have no doubt that we will see the standards rise yet again across both Conferences in the upcoming season.”
The proposal to retain the Conference line-ups was reviewed by the Championship’s Rugby Sub-Committee which includes representatives from the board of Celtic Rugby and key figures from the clubs, provinces and regions, including Leinster Rugby Chief Executive Mick Dawson, Ospreys Rugby Managing Director Andrew Millward, and Glasgow Warriors Managing Director Nathan Bombrys.
Dawson commented: “In this the second year of the new GUINNESS PRO14 format, I think it’s important that we have secured the same Conferences for our teams but with the home-and-away draw alternating. This allows our supporters, who attended in record numbers last season, to again see the rivalries build on what was a hugely successful first full PRO14 season.
“The process of scheduling PRO14 matches is unique in its complexity given the different territories involved, with some sides having shared stadia and indeed the travel issues affecting teams on a week-to-week basis.
“In that regard, it is great that we have the 2018/19 fixture list live ahead of time. This could not be done without the help and support of all the key stakeholders, in particular eir Sport and Premier Sports.”
GUINNESS PRO14 – 2018/19 CONFERENCE LINE-UPS: