Pro14 a business game changer
Cheetahs, Kings not only add glamour but even greater returns
The new age of the Guinness Pro14 appears to be just the beginning for a tournament brimming with ambition.
That was the message from Pro14 chief executive officer Martin Anayi hours after the big announcement that the Cheetahs and Southern Kings will be joining the European competition in a matter of weeks.
Threading the new parts onto the Pro12 tapestry since the two South African sides were cut from Super Rugby has remarkably been completed in very little time, with the new season's fixtures to be confirmed next week.At the project's core, player welfare has been the No1 priority, mapping out a comfortable schedule for the existing sides heading to South Africa and vice versa, with an emphasis on rest periods including seven-day gaps between matches and five days on the ground.
If supporters have been frustrated at a lack of updates regarding the tournament's expansion, ensuring that the players' health and recovery time comes first has been worth the backlash.
Welsh side Scarlets will defend their Pro12 crown with matches in South Africa next year.
"There is that genuine sense of relief to get it out in the open," Anayi told The Daily Telegraph.
"We have been working so hard in the background across the board. It has been special to be involved with, but also very cathartic to be able to announce it."
By design, welcoming international sides into the Pro14 makes perfect sense. Unlike the Aviva Premiership or Top 14 in France, the competition has never been limited to geographical borders.
Since taking the job in 2015, Anayi has looked for ways to enhance the league's commercial standing. Markets including the US and Canada might not be mentioned by name by the chief executive at this stage, but would fit the same template down the line.
"I was put in two years ago and was told on day one that we are a cross-border tournament. It is in our DNA to be expansionist rather than to look to contract," Anayi explained.