BKT URC plan new cup competition but play down prospect of league games in Qatar or US

Chief executive Martin Anayi thinks exhibition matches, not league fixtures, could go ahead in Middle East country

Martin Anayi
BKT URC chief executive Martin Anayi at today's season launch near London. Image: www.inpho.ie

MARTIN ANAYI, the chief executive of the United Rugby Championship, has played down the chances of the 16-team league playing competitive matches in either Qatar or the USA.

However, following the agreement of a sponsorship deal between the championship and Qatar Airlines, he insisted that pre-season games in the Middle Eastern country could well be on the cards, and that the URC’s European teams would find it beneficial to stop off in Qatar before or after fixtures in South Africa. He also committed himself and his organisation – now officially known as the BKT United Rugby Championship after the Indian tyre company became titular sponsors – to the ambition of starting a new cup competition late next year.

Speaking at the tournament’s season launch yesterday at the Burnham Beeches hotel west of London, Anayi insisted that the facilities available in Qatar could prove invaluable to his organisation’s teams as they travel between Europe and South Africa. “They [Qatar] have got unbelievable facilities through the FIFA World Cup, and one of their big things is legacy and what happens post-World Cup,” he said. “They’ve got world-class medical facilities that we can use for recovery.

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“There is no obligation on clubs to use it. It is really important from our point of view that there has got to be a choice. It’s an excellent route, the planes are fantastic, the best in the world. But if players and coaches and teams don’t want to go by Doha, they don’t have to.

“Really, what they’re saying is this is a transport hub for players, coaches and hopefully fans down to South Africa and back. From a high-performance point of view, you can do winter training down there as lots of football teams do, and if there’s ever an opportunity to play exhibition matches we’d be open to doing that.

“It’s very unlikely it’ll be a competitive URC game, but you could imagine pre-season or exhibition games being played there. League matches are really important and quite scarce things for our teams.”

There would be an obvious appeal to the massive United States market if a derby between two of the URC’s four Irish clubs were to be played there. But Anayi was unequivocal in his dismissal of that prospect. “We’ve had opportunities in the past to take games out to the USA and we’ve chosen not to do that,” he said.

When it comes to starting up a cup competition, Anayi admitted that the initial hope had been to involve English clubs as well as the Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Italian and South African teams who make up the BKT URC. At present, however, the expectation is that only the 16 URC sides will participate.

“We’ll probably play at the end of the World Cup, during knockouts,” Anayi  added. “That’s what we’re gunning for. Let’s get a cup competition in that window. Everyone seems pretty excited by that.”

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About Stuart Bathgate 1262 Articles
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  1. rare to see such unity in this. I did not think Ayani a good appointment. If he is driving this then I was spot on, and he and URC board need to go PDQ. If he is simply driving the board’s ideas (more specifically Dublin’s I fear) then he is not up to the job and the board still needs to go
    They are trying to kill this league; and help Qatar etc do similar, to workers
    There is no angle where this is a good idea. Not even a few quid

  2. I think it’s high time a players union came up with a total number of games a player can take any part of, in say 18 months. Yes they are getting rewarded well, but who needs all that money… if your health is gone 🤔

  3. Already competing with SA sides, Qatar with lovely air contionned stadiums for the soccer world cup (some thousands of workers died in building them).
    I like sports but it is becoming insane.

    • Some sport at the top level where it’s more about business is indeed becoming insane but plenty of proper sport to be found at lower levels where sport remains more important than money.

  4. And with BKT as a sponsor, no doubt they’ll want a slice of the action in the future with ‘exhibition games’ in India.
    But let’s take the money now, we can worry about the players later…..
    Where will it stop?

    • Looks a bit of a problem from time to time looking at this statement from earlier in the year, it included SA.
      “Qatar Airways will no longer be accepting passengers travelling from five southern African countries in our global network. However, we will continue to accept passengers for travel into these countries in-line with current restrictions,” the airline said.14 Dec 2021.
      Of course I’m sure Anayi has contingency plans on Aer Lingus via Knock airport.

  5. Just look at the quotes from Anayi in the article and read between the lines, wouldn’t the Americans love some games involving the Irish teams, but of course that isn’t the plan, then why throw the pebble in the Pond?
    Of course they don’t have to use my recommended airline, but it would help with my air-miles and it’s a Transport hub for players that I am sending around the globe in my effort to outdo the French Top 14 on revenue.
    They don’t have to go via Qatar, but of course if they do why not have a fixture there, don’t worry about the mind-blowing heat, ‘cos they have fabulous medical facilities for players that have had even more fixtures shoved into the contract.
    On Irish Rugby derby “We’ve had opportunities in the past to take games out to the USA and we’ve chosen not to do that” – Marketing speak for there wasn’t enough in it for us.
    IF there is anyone reading this article that doesn’t believe that it is the thin end of the wedge and there will be enticements, or an offer the clubs can’t refuse, then no doubt they still believe in the Tooth Fairy.
    Of course our little Dublin clique of promoters and visual rights owners consider player safety is paramount and with the contacts we have in Qatar we can ensure that the ‘Horses we flog to within an inch’ can get the latest medical treatment.
    My personal opinion of the individual is unprintable, despicable will have to suffice.

    • Bang on the money with that concluding assessment, George.

      Only additional comment might read “CVC-fuelled lunacy”, to be inserted anywhere (legally) appropriate……

      • There are elements within the administration of Rugby both World and National Unions that seem to be oblivious to the problems that are being created.
        Thanks for your comment Ron.

  6. Oh yes, another cup comp in addition to league and European cup games, not to mention internationals. What about looking after players welfare and making sure they don’t play too many matches. Seasons are long enough without inserting additional games for the sake of a few more quid.

      • Player welfare is very important but of course not as important as making money or inflating the egos of those making the money.

    • A cup competition while the world cup is on, *is* a good idea. Keeps it separate from the league which wouldn’t see its star players until November/December.

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