Leading club up for sale in the FT

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The Independent Online
Anyone with a few million to spare fancy taking over a rugby club? Sir John Hall did - and went out and bought Newcastle - and now one of the finest clubs in the land, under the anonymity of a newspaper box number, is offering itself up to someone similar, writes Steve Bale.

An advertisement in the Business Opportunities section of today's Financial Times states: "Now that rugby union football has embraced professionalism, and a new European league appears inevitable, clubs in a position to do so can establish themselves among a European elite. The commercial potential is huge!

"Given the current situation in British rugby football, there is the opportunity for an entrepreneur to gain effective control of one of the best clubs in rugby football, a club which has a fine coaching set-up, a successful record in recent years, a sound commercial operation and a squad of players including many internationals."

The advert maintains that present management would be prepared to accommodate a backer by taking a secondary role or, "subject to certain conditions, to step aside to allow the new 'owner' to manage the club's affairs."

Assuming that the above description is accurate, Cardiff, with their 17 capped players, would seem most nearly to fit the bill. Meanwhile, Leicester's president, the former England hooker Peter Wheeler, is already on record that he has had enquiries from business interests on which he did not look unfavourably. The Leicester squad currently contains six English internationals as well as one Irish.

However, when it comes to big names it is Bath who have more than any club in England with 16 capped players: 11 English, four Scots and one Irish. Northampton, another multi-national set-up, would also come into the reckoning.

Harlequins, too, still have six internationals amongst their number, but in their case most of the members of their committee are already millionaires.