A very opportune meeting on a Friday – my day off from my day job – meant I was able to take a different day away from my desk. That day coincided with an invitation to a media event from Leicester Tigers. I was thrilled to be able to go!
I didn’t know too much about the reasons for the event other than the fact that it was to launch a new rugby competition in this year of the Rugby World Cup.
The 2015/16 season will be a strange one for Premiership Rugby as it takes place at a time when the season starts. No league game will be able to take place during the early rounds of the World Cup – before the knock out stages.
This leaves the clubs with something of a quandary – with no LV Cup competition in the season it also leaves a gap – the LV is where teams play a mix of old and new if you like. A place where you can see future Premiership stars as well as established players.
Dean Richards Director of Rugby at Newcastle Falcons came up with the idea of a ‘mini’ competition between the 3 most Northern Clubs (Although it was mentioned that Wasps may now be further North than Tigers).
That thought gave us Newcastle Falcons – a club established in 1877 as Gosforth Football Club. They were Premiership Champions in 1997-98, they play at Kingston Park which has a capacity of 10,200 and as of now a 4G pitch. 2014/15 has seen a 25% increase in attendance with the Average attendance being 6,500. So, that’s the North East covered!
Next we head to Sale Sharks – they stand as one of the oldest clubs in English Rugby, being founded in 1861. They were Premiership Champions in 2005/6 and have been European Cup Champions twice. They moved to the AJ Bell Stadium in 2012, and now share with Salford Reds (of rugby league fame) they’ve have seen their average attendance rise to 6,775.
Steve Diamond is their Director of Rugby – a man form the area himself he has a real passion for his club and in helping the game thrive at the top level in an area full of top class football teams.
The 3rd team is of course Leicester Tigers – this is a club that has seen great success over many years – being Champions of England on 10 occasions, they’ve also had 2 European Cups in their trophy cabinet. Tigers play at Welford Road which has a capacity of 24,000 with plans to increase that to 26,000 in the 2015/16 season. Their average attendance is 22,738 which is a figure that can only be aspired to by the rest of the league!
Richard Cockerill is Director of Rugby – a man who doesn’t always get good press, but I have to say a man I found to be very charming. After the event he gave lots of his time to the fans lucky enough to be present – thanking them for coming along.
I’ve written more about the setting in my blog at http://wp.me/p5wvCC-nx so to the actual competition. The idea behind it all is to help with the run in to the new season. There are no easy games in Premiership rugby, and if a team doesn’t hit the ground running it can be a disaster.
The 3 teams will play each other as follows –
- September 6 Falcons v Sharks Kingston Park
- September 12 Sharks v Tigers AJ Bell Stadium
- September 19 Tigers v Falcons Welford Road
- September 26 Falcons v Tigers Kingston Park
- October 2 Sharks v Falcons AJ Bell Stadium
- October 10 Tigers v Sharks Welford Road
The winners will be crowned Kings of The North – the setting for the launch was Leicester Cathedral – a place that has been put on the map since it became the final resting place of King Richard III. He was the last King from the House of York – so a man King of The North himself.
Having only visited Leicester to watch sport I can highly recommend a visit to the Cathedral and surrounding area, I was very pleasantly surprised!
In addition to the launch Marcos Ayerza spoke about his time at Tigers and his Testimonial game against Argentina at Welford Road on September 5th. It’s a chance to see one of the top club rugby teams take on one of the rising countries in the world of rugby at a very reasonable £25. The game kicks off at 3pm – I’d say a visit to the centre before the game would be a plan!