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Little calls for Celtic connection in cup plan
11:30am Friday 16th November 2012 in Warriors
A RESTRUCTURED Amlin Challenge Cup made up of teams from the Rabo Direct Pro 12, the Aviva Premiership and the French Top 14 would be of much greater benefit to Worcester Warriors than the current structure, according to Sixways managing director Charlie Little.
The Warriors chief is a firm believer that a tier two European tournament — beneath the Heineken Cup and contested by teams from the bottom half of the continent’s three major competitions — would be a more viable product.
In its current guise, the Amlin Challenge Cup sees Worcester pitted against European minnows such as Gernika and Rovigo, which creates pointless group games before a winner-takes-all showdown with one of the French clubs — this year Perpignan.
While moving the clubs from smaller nations into a newly-constructed third tier European competition would arguably make life tougher for Warriors to progress through the group stages, Little believes it would be a vast improvement on the current set-up.
He explained: “It needs restructuring and, if you put your Warriors hat on, we are in the bottom six of the Aviva Premiership, so would be in the tier two competition.
“Under the new proposals, we would be playing Celtic teams rather than a club such as Gernika.
“No disrespect to Gernika, but when they come to Sixways, they will bring about 100 supporters with them, maximum. If we were playing a Welsh, Scottish or Irish region, there’s every chance they would bring thousands, which increases the revenue, the atmosphere and the experience and it becomes a better event.
“At the moment, you are in a pool where you will probably play one French team and two sides from the lesser rugby nations, such as Italy, Romania or Spain.
“The French game is your big one and the other two, if we’re being honest, are supported by the season ticket holders and a few people who fancy watching some rugby on that particular weekend.
“To that extent, it pretty much comes down to a two-horse race to get out of the pool and qualify for the quarter-finals.
“If you are successful in getting through the pool, the three best Heineken Cup teams that haven’t gone through to the quarters, come into the Amlin, so there’s quality opposition.”
Little added: “Currently, only one team goes through from the pool stages, so I wouldn’t say that our task would become more difficult under the proposed new structure.
“As the Amlin Cup is now, I don’t think there’s any less chance of qualification.
“What would change is that the three home pool games that are guaranteed to season ticket holders would be of better quality against better opposition — there would be big clubs coming here, which is what the fans want to watch.”
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