It looks like the EPCR have settled on a new format for next season's Champions Cup, although the new and all too confusing changes have garnered widespread criticism from fans.
The Times have reported that the new changes will be 'rubber stamped' at board meetings this weekend.
Organisers were keen to revert back to a format with smaller pools, much to the delight of fans across Europe who have grown tired of the confusing current structure of two large pools with mini groups within each pool, and a last 16 round despite there only being 24 teams in the competition.
However, the competition organisers, rather than reinstate the old model of groups of four with no last 16, have come up with an entirely new idea.
The new concept will feature four groups of six, with two teams from each of the competing leagues - URC, Top 14, Premiership - in each group.
Teams will only play group games against sides that are not in their domestic league, and there will only be one leg, meaning that clubs will play just four games in the group stage.
It is undecided which teams will be allowed play at home for these games, and the last 16 will also remain.
Naturally, fans were dismayed at the news.
Champions Cup Format Changes
Absolutely insane to retain a last 16 from 24 entrants.
Ridiculous that the GP has 8 qualifiers from 11 teams.
Change the format to top 5 from each league plus the winner last season, or the CC winner if they are already qualified. 4 pools of 4 H&A then top 8 to 1/4 finals
— Damien Quirk 🇪🇺🏴🇮🇪🇺🇦 (@damienquirk) May 20, 2023
🤦🏻♂️🤦🏻♂️🤦🏻♂️ European Rugby: where confusing competition formats try to rip the heart out of what was once a great gripping competition.
How’s 4 teams qualifying from 4 pools of 6 who don’t all play each other any better than 8 teams from 2 pools of 12 who don’t all play each other? https://t.co/Wxwp2jYRaW
— Tom (@Glawsboy84) May 20, 2023
“We’ll definitely evolve our format, there’s no doubt about that," said EPCR chairman Dominic McKay last March.
"How we do it is still being finessed at the moment. The readability of the tournament needs to be easy for everyone to access; that means our existing supporters, naturally, but we’ve also got ambition to grow our supporter base and support our clubs and leagues to grow rugby into new markets."
“One of the easiest ways to do that is the readability of the tournament. Can you explain it in a couple of sentences? That’s what we are interested in doing, while also making sure we have a structure that creates real sporting jeopardy for as many games as we possibly can.
“There are a few things for us to weigh up but we are making great progress, chopping quite a lot of wood. We’re definitely getting there and it’s important that we do our research and our thinking in a thoughtful way, that we engage with our stakeholders.