It has been reported by Standard Sport that upon its return, Premiership Rugby will face the prospect of midweek games. This is likely to cause controversy for fans and some players alike as many will cry player welfare. Whilst others will argue the product is being devalued.
All are reasonable complaints to raise. However, given the current situation, we perhaps should be more flexible. Premiership Rugby’s return is complicated enough and this is likely the best compromise available.
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Issues With Player Welfare
Current rules around player welfare and minutes played would make midweek games seem almost impossible. It will take careful management to make sure players are not overplayed and stay safe.
However, as Rob Baxter said when asked about the subject “some players will love it”. Some obviously will not but Baxter pointed out that many players enjoy the playing of the game so much that quick turnarounds may suit them.
The issue will be for those squads will less depth and quality across 40 or so players. The Premiership has always been a tournament won by the best squad rather than by the best 15.
However, now this will be the case even more so. If clubs are forced to rely on back up and academy players more then this could bring a whole new dynamic to the competition.
Devaluing the Product
The main reason clubs are so desperate to get back playing is to fulfil TV commitments and to boost revenue. However, a Premiership Rugby filled with second-string players due to midweek games may hamper the product.
For the passionate fan, it is less of an issue. Although we all want to see the top players playing every week we will be happy to watch the wider squad go at it. However, for those more casual fans, this becomes less of an attractive prospect.
If clubs are forced to field essentially “B” teams then they could run into some commercial issues. If the fans do not want to watch these inferior players then the whole scramble to get the competition back could be for nothing.
A Chance to Shine
Conversely, this could be a chance to shine for some of those lesser-known Premiership players. We could see a previously unknown academy player be the hero of the league this year.
When spun this way the prospect of seeing those rarely given an opportunity becomes that bit more tantalising. Providing every game retains its spice and meaningfulness then Premiership rugby could be onto a winner with midweek games.
It is a chance for the clubs and the league to market these squads as a whole rather than focus on the marquee players. Done well and a whole new appreciation could emerge for the game in this country.
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