Feehan launches staunch defence of PRO12
September 1, 2013
PRO12 chief executive John Feehan has defended the profile of his competition © Getty Images
PRO12 chief executive John Feehan has shrugged off the loss of title sponsor RaboDirect and insists the competition is thriving.
Dutch banking group RaboDirect announced earlier this month that they would not be extending their support of the Celtic and Italian league beyond this season - their third as the main title sponsor having succeeded Magners in 2010. As they begin the search for a new sponsor, Feehan has rubbished the claim that the PRO12 is the least attractive competition in European club rugby behind the English Premiership and France's Top 14.
"I would categorically reject any opinion that we are the poor relative," Feehan told The Rugby Paper. "We had more British & Irish Lions than any other league. Our growth rates are higher than anyone else's and the development of our stadiums and teams is happening.
"Everything is going in the right direction. When Magners finished we only had about 900,000 people through the turnstiles, this year it was 1.1m. That says more than a sponsor. There's no doubt about the attractiveness of the competition."
The search for a new sponsor is set to be helped by the recently-signed four-year TV rights deal with Sky Sports. The satellite broadcaster will start covering the competition at the start of the 2014-15 and provide an unprecedented level exposure with 33 matches set to be aired each season.
Details of terrestrial coverage beyond this season are yet to be signed off but Feehan remains confident deals will be done with their existing broadcast partners. "You have got to start nationally which we have with Sky and that's a great development," he said. "There are 12m people living in Scotland, Ireland and Wales and 53m people in England. It broadens the base for us and gives the competition a lot more exposure across the country.
"You then look at the terrestrials and we will be on terrestrial TV, We're having our cake and eating it. It will be a nice mix and balance."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Download ESPN's new UK multisport app, a fresh and powerful new way to follow your favourite UK sports news, scores and video.
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby