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Rugby's Celtic fringe goes global – an economic analysis of the Pro14

Patrick Massey (Compecon Ltd, Dublin, Ireland)
Vincent Hogan (School of Economics, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 7 April 2022

Issue publication date: 2 January 2023

47

Abstract

Purpose

The introduction of professionalism in 1995 posed serious challenges for Rugby Union in Ireland, Scotland and Wales given their limited fan bases and broadcast markets. It led to the creation of a new league, the Pro14, with teams from all three countries. The paper asks whether the Pro14 has been a success and whether it might offer lessons for other sports. It thus seeks to extend the knowledge base on professional team sports and derive lessons for management of professional sports leagues in small countries.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors analyse Pro14 performance using a range of metrics, including attendances, competitive balance and team performances, in European competitions. The authors also analyse the limited financial data available for Pro14 teams.

Findings

Pro14 teams have competed successfully in European competition, offering support for claims that mergers of smaller country leagues could improve competitive balance in European soccer. The Pro14 has increased attendances through specific measures and increased broadcast income through geographic expansion. Many Pro14 teams have struggled financially. Several English and French rugby clubs have also experienced financial problems, suggesting that European rugby may need to introduce financial fair play rules (FFPs) similar to soccer.

Practical implications

The paper has implications for the Pro14 and its member clubs, particularly with reference to competition design. It may also have lessons for European football where some have suggested that mergers of smaller country leagues could improve competitive balance in European competitions.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the academic discussion on professional team sports, particularly Rugby Union. The paper has implications for Pro14 clubs and league organisers, particularly with reference to competition design. It may also have lessons for European soccer where some have suggested that mergers of smaller country leagues could reduce the dominance of larger country leagues.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to participants at the 2014 Dublin Economics Workshop Annual Policy Conference and 2017 Gijon Annual Sports Economics Conference and to two anonymous referees for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. The usual disclaimer applies.

Citation

Massey, P. and Hogan, V. (2023), "Rugby's Celtic fringe goes global – an economic analysis of the Pro14", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 37-56. https://doi.org/10.1108/SBM-04-2021-0050

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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