Aviva Premiership not willing to shift season dates to accommodate Lions, says Mark McCafferty
By Press Association
Last Updated: 25/08/17 11:41am
English club bosses have hit out at "provocation" from the British and Irish Lions over the conflict surrounding schedules for future tours.
Chief executive Mark McCafferty suggested the Aviva Premiership is not currently willing to shift its season to allow the Lions extra preparation time on future tours.
The Lions want an extra week's preparation before their next tour in 2021, and this week chief executive Martin Anayi pledged that the Guinness PRO14 will alter its schedule to help smooth that process.
McCafferty hit back at the Lions however, insisting no one from the touring organisation has contacted Premiership Rugby.
"We got a lot of provocation during the course of the Lions tour this year, and the next tour is still four years away," he said.
"We know what was agreed in San Francisco by World Rugby and I don't see much point in getting drawn into it.
"What the PRO14 wants to do is its call. Well over two thirds of the (2017 Lions tour) squad could have left (for New Zealand) after the semi-finals anyway.
"There are a variety of solutions to it but people need to talk as ever. The Premiership is the Premiership."
The Lions claimed to have been marginalised in World Rugby's summit in February that thrashed out the framework for a new global calendar for the next 12 years.
Straight after the Lions scrambled a drawn Test series with New Zealand in July, manager John Spencer demanded changes to the future world schedule to hand the famous touring side extra preparation time.
The Lions jetted out to New Zealand just days after last term's PRO12 and Premiership finals, but Warren Gatland still managed to coach the side to a hugely-creditable drawn series with the All Blacks.
Despite the PRO14's softened stance over future scheduling though, Premiership bosses are in no mood to relent.
McCafferty warned the Lions not to shoot themselves in the foot with incendiary public talk, instead urging anyone from the organisation to pick up the phone to Premiership chiefs.
"The Lions' end of tour press conference was not exactly complimentary about the English Premiership, given that we supplied over half the squad," said McCafferty.
"The Lions need to recognise they are doing themselves quite a lot of damage if they don't engage in a more positive way. But that is for another three years' time.
"I have heard nothing from the Lions. We have not been asked anything - they don't talk to us. They had two board members in San Francisco - they need to contact us and if they deign to speak to us, maybe we have got some things to talk about.
"We defended the role of the Lions in San Francisco. They are absolutely a key part of the rugby make-up.
"I'm not sure they recognise that everyone else does think that as well. The only people who have spoken out about their future is themselves.
"The Lions is great, it's a fantastic brand, it's a brilliant entity, we support it but everything has to have a balance and that's what the discussions were about.
"It's very clear what was agreed. Nobody at the moment has approached us or contacted us so at the moment, as far as we're concerned, it's all part of what was agreed under the auspices of World Rugby.
"We need to first of all understand what the issue really is, and then look at the various options and see if any of them are tenable. But people have to talk and not talk through the media all the time."
In a wide-ranging interview at the Premiership season launch, McCafferty confirmed title sponsors Aviva have renewed for just one more campaign at this stage.
The Premiership boss also pledged the salary cap could be amended for the 2019/20 season to help the likes of Saracens retain all their top homegrown talents.
While McCafferty insists the Premiership have no plans to add overseas teams to the English league, he refused to rule out allowing South African sides to join the Champions Cup.
The Southern Kings and Cheetahs have helped form the inaugural PRO14, but this season the two South African sides are not eligible to win qualification for future European competition.
Admitting Premiership Rugby will keep an open mind on future South African involvement in the Champions Cup, McCafferty said: "We were pretty much single-handedly responsible for changing the European Cup several years ago.
"So it would be disingenuous of us to say now that you can't change it."