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Could two London-based clubs join the Pro12 in the near future?

The league’s organisers say no discussion have taken place yet.

PRO12 ORGANISERS SAY discussions have not been held with London Scottish and London Welsh over the possibility of the English clubs joining the Guinness Pro12.

Leinster lift the trophy Leinster are the reigning Pro12 champions. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The Rugby Paper last weekend reported that informal talks have already taken place with both clubs, with a source quoted as saying:

“Discussions behind the scenes are still at a very informal stage. There are some big obstacles to be overcome but it is worth finding a way round them because of the commercial advantages to all parties.”

However, The42 understands that no discussions with London Scottish and London Scottish, neither formal or informal, have been carried out yet.

London Scottish are currently competing in the Championship promotion play-offs, while London Welsh have been relegated from the Premiership after a torrid season in which they have failed to win a single game.

It is believed that the idea for the London-based clubs joining the Pro12 has come largely from Welsh quarters, particularly after the success of the recent Judgement Day III at the Millennium Stadium, when 52,762 fans turned out to watch the four Welsh regions play.

Adding a fifth ‘Welsh’ team in the guise of London Welsh would potentially increase revenue for the regions, as well as opening up a new market in the English capital.

Furthermore, the fact that the Italian clubs in the Pro12, Treviso and Zebre, are increasingly in financial difficulties with the league and are struggling to continue to pay the fees that allow them to compete in the Pro12, means there is a possibility that they will leave the competition in the future.

The Guinness PRO12 trophy Ulster's Kingspan Stadium hosts this season's Pro12 final. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Should that happen, the prospect of London Welsh and London Scottish joining the Pro12 would become more realistic. Indeed, were the Italian clubs to leave the Pro12, The42 believes that competition organisers would be open to the idea of London-based clubs joining.

The main issue would be that the clubs fall under the rule of the RFU in England at present, meaning a messy process of transferring governing body or continuing as RFU clubs in a league that has no attachment to the English governing body.

The prospect of opening up a new London market is one that would strongly appeal to the majority of current Pro12 clubs, particularly those who see little value in what the Italian sides are bringing to the league at present.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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