Pettiness and posturing. Whispered briefings, muttered insinuations, discussions conducted through the medium of the press release. Yes, it is back again. The Heineken Cup. That, er, unique celebration of European rugby unity.
Apparently, there were rumours in some quarters that rugby had finally grown up as a professional sport, that its officials and administrators had learned how to sit down and have a sensible conversation. But, as the past few weeks have demonstrated, the megaphone has returned to be the debating tool of choice, with the men who run rugby having poisoned its atmosphere with bile and acrimony again.
The shape, sporting priorities and future direction of the Heineken Cup are at stake, but amidst all the sanctimonious bleatings that have flowed from both sides in an argument that reached boiling point when the Anglo-French rebels announced their rival tournament, the Rugby Champions Cup, a couple of weeks ago, neither has been guilty of any excess of clarity. What it all really comes down to is two things: Who runs the show, and who gets the dosh.
As a lawyer with a background in commercial litigation, Alan Solomons might be just the fellow to sort the whole thing out. Inconveniently, the South African has lately taken on the rather more complex and time-consuming brief of sorting out Edinburgh's affairs instead. And trying, in his capacity as head coach of the capital outfit, to figure out how a side that lit up Europe with a thrilling run to the Heineken semi-finals two seasons ago could have degenerated into the kind of hapless shambles they were in the most recent campaign.
Solomons should start by picking the brains of Greig Laidlaw, a man whose rugby knowledge is as sharp as his pass and who has a Borderer's gift for plain speaking. Laidlaw does not shirk from the fact he was a central figure in Edinburgh's best and worst Heineken Cup efforts, and he is still angry that one should have followed so hard on the heels of the other.
He casts his mind back to that astonishing day in April last year when almost 40,000 fans turned up at Murrayfield and watched Edinburgh, with Laidlaw at his craftiest, dump mighty Toulouse out of the competition with a thoroughly merited 19-14 victory. It was a glimpse of what could be - and what should be as far as the little scrum-half is concerned.
"It was a big stage, there was something like 38,000 there," he recalls. "It was the first time in an Edinburgh shirt that you felt you were going into something massive, something close to an international. It was pandemonium, with cameras flying about and all the rest of it. The pressure was on us to perform, and fortunately we turned up that day and won.
"I think it happened out of sheer willpower and sheer wanting to win in that game and on that day. Toulouse were coming and there was talk they were going to smash us in the scrum. But they didn't, and our boys up front did a great job. That game was like the whole tournament - we just built on confidence from the start, and we scored early."
And then, in their next Heineken Cup outing in the stadium, six months later, they lost 45-0 to Saracens. The manner of the defeat was as jaw-dropping as the margin, as Edinburgh gifted up points with a stream of errors that would have embarrassed a schoolboy team. And it went downhill from there as Edinburgh lost all their games and finished with a record low number of points.
Small wonder that Laidlaw stresses the importance of getting off to a good start when they kick off this season's tournament against Munster at Murrayfield on Saturday.
"The start was what helped us two years ago," he says. "We won our first two games and thought, 'we are in with a shout here', and that really galvanised us as a team. We grew a lot of confidence."
Of course, the Munster they face next weekend are the same Munster who beat them 34-23 in the RaboDirect PRO12 a few weeks ago. For his part, Solomons believes that Edinburgh were guilty of a succession of defensive errors in that game, and that many of those problems have now been addressed.
But the most significant difference next weekend could still be the return of Laidlaw, who has been out due to a leg injury. He will make his first start of the season in today's PRO12 clash with the Blues in Cardiff and will add impetus around the fringes and some much-needed rugby intelligence in the team's overall approach.
Solomons said: "Greig has an enormous amount of experience, he has a key leadership role he fulfils very well. I think that is very important for us. Where we are at the moment, I think Greig's return will mean a massive amount to the team."
Solomons is at one with Laidlaw in his belief that a strong start to the tournament is essential. Some might suppose that Edinburgh, rock bottom of the PRO12 table at the moment, might be better advised to concentrate on the bread-and-butter event, but the coach takes a different tack.
"We will have strong opposition in Munster, but on the other hand we are at home and we are getting the return of our key players. Greig and Matt Scott are back and Tim [Visser] now seems to be better and will hopefully now have a run of games. He has only had one game this season. We haven't even seen Ross Rennie playing. That's four guys who start in the national team and that's massive."
So, too, is developing the core team spirit and the never-say-die attitude that energised Edinburgh in Europe two seasons ago. In which light, Laidlaw takes comfort from the fact that 13 of the players who were part of that side are still on the club's books.
"I have belief in the squad and the players who are here," says Laidlaw. "But we need to go on the field, take what we have learnt from the previous games, give it everything we have got and try to surprise a few people again."