Pro 14 organisers will not bring forward 8.15pm kick-offs
Premier League has changed kick-off times due to new UK pub curfew laws
The Guinness Pro 14 will not follow the Premier League’s lead to bring forward 8.15pm kick-offs in order to dovetail with new pub curfew laws introduced by the UK government.
Public Houses in England and Scotland must close at 10pm, making it impossible for supporters to watch full matches when there are late starts.
“The time that pubs close at isn’t a factor in how our fixtures are put together,” a Pro 14 spokesman informed The Irish Times.
However, the Premier League has taken closing time into consideration with next Monday’s Fulham versus Aston Villa game brought forward to 5.45pm, rather than 6pm, and Liverpool playing Arsenal at 8pm.
English football fixtures initially set for later kick-offs are expected to be altered.
Leinster are due to play Glasgow Warriors at 8.15pm on Monday, November 2nd in Scotstoun stadium.
Pubs in Wales will not shut at 10pm but alcohol can no longer be served after that time, while the Northern Ireland executive is yet to make a decision on closing time for ‘wet’ pubs that only reopened last Wednesday.
Ulster’s opening game of the season, next Friday against Benetton Treviso, is slated for 8.15pm, as is the new ‘Monday Night Rugby’ unveiled to breathe some life into the Pro 14, with Cardiff visiting Thomond Park on October 26th.
Almost 300,000 households in Ireland that are subscribed to the Virgin Media provider cannot view the Pro 14 due to an ongoing financial dispute with rights holder Eir Sport. This may prompt the loyal fans to find a television screen in their local pub or restaurant.
The current Pro 14 broadcast deal ends after this season. The next package is expected to reflect the future direction of the competition that currently includes Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Italian teams with discussions ongoing to add at least two South African franchises in 2021.
The Cheetahs are ready to return but the Southern Kings – who won only three of 34 matches over two seasons – have gone into liquidation.
If the South African teams return to the competition this season they will, effectively, be playing non-competitive matches as they cannot qualify for Europe, nor can they win the tournament as it won’t be possible to play the same number of games as their opponents.
With Super Rugby not expected to return in 2021 – New Zealand and Australia have set up their own competitions – the ideal scenario for the Pro 14 would be to add the main South African franchises.
The Stormers, Sharks, Bulls and Lions – with all their Springboks – would bring a legitimacy to the Pro 14 in the eyes of spectators and their new commercial arm CVC Capital Partners.
All the elements – relative ease of travel and the same time zone – are pointing towards South Africa’s imminent entry to the European club scene.
The country’s domestic season finally begins on October 10th with a seven-team competition called Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked followed by the Currie Cup. The Super Rugby sides will be joined by the Cheetahs, Pumas and Griquas. Teams will play each other home and away over four months of games.