Yes ladies and gentleman, it is that time of year again, as the annual moan about the Guinness Pro14 fixtures is out!
This morning the Gallagher Premiership announced their fixtures for the 2019/20 season, allowing supporters of their teams the chance to get excited for the new campaign, start planning away trips and help drive season ticket sales as customers have a better opportunity to see what they’re getting for their money.
Now, the actual announcing of the fixtures is not the aspect which I am moaning about, as anyone with even a brief understanding of logistics and/or planning should be able to appreciate that the Pro14 will likely never get their fixtures out before the Premiership.
It is a mammoth task to organise our fixtures when you take into account Premier Sports, Eir Sports, SuperSport, S4C and TG4’s wishes as broadcasters, the travelling of teams between countries, and indeed continents, as well as clashes with international games and issues with shared stadia.
With time then allowed to view and tinker with draft fixture lists, before a week or so for the teams to organise their travel before the official announcements, releasing the fixtures before mid-July is very tricky indeed.
Instead, what I am moaning about is the distinct lack of any communication from the offices of the Pro14 over the off-season in regards to when to expect fixture announcements, or even ahead of 2019/20, when the season will actually start.
Supporters of teams in the Gallagher Premiership have known since the 10th June that their 2019/20 fixtures will be released on the 10th July, while it was way back in October 2018 that confirmation of the season start date was given.
Meanwhile in Pro14-land, there have been no official confirmation of when the fixtures will come out, or even when the season will start, despite some of that information being reported by the media for as long as four months.
The Irish Times published way back in March that the last weekend of September would see the league get underway, and even including dates of rounds up to the Christmas period, as the league works around the World Cup.
Meanwhile, South African media outlet OFM published on the 27th June that, while not finalised, Cheetahs were slated to begin their campaign with home games against Glasgow, Munster and Ulster.
The information is clearly out there, but the Pro14 continue to neglect any sort of supporter engagement, instead leaving us to guess when we might receive the fixtures, fostering a frustration that is often taken out on the clubs directly via social media.
All it requires is the league to manage expectations at some point in June with an announcement that the fixtures will be out on *insert date here*. Nothing special, and a date that gives them plenty of time, but something that gives us something to look forward to.
Supporter engagement needn’t be so difficult!