But the downbeat tone as the Heineken Cup roadshow rolled into the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome owed nothing to the efforts of Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and their Catalonian confreres on Tuesday evening and everything to the crisis that has lately engulfed the rugby world's most compelling club competition.
The joint announcement by the leading clubs of England and France that they intend to break away and form their own tournament - the Rugby Champions Cup - next season has turned what should have been a celebratory series of events into something of a roving fire-fighting operation. At its centre is Derek McGrath, the chief executive of European Rugby Cup Ltd, whose suave ability to talk a good game has thus far not translated into a concrete proposal that has been deemed acceptable by the rebels.
At risk is the very future of a competition that has transformed the European rugby landscape since its inception 18 years ago, adding a cosmopolitan edge to the sport that even the Six Nations cannot match. Along the way it has brought close to 15 million paying spectators through the turnstiles, generated more than half a billion euros of revenue and has been broadcast to 150 countries worldwide.
And yet, it has come close to foundering on the rocks of intransigence, obstinacy, Machiavellian intrigue and petty posturing as the opposing camps have failed dismally to reach a settlement that accommodates the needs of the Celtic and Italian sides who compete in the RaboDirect PRO12 league as well as the aspirations of the French and English clubs who have their own national championships.
The 800lb gorilla in this rather messy room is the deal the English clubs, in the collective guise of Premier Rugby Ltd, have brokered with BT Sport. Its terms are cloaked in mystery, with PRL sources suggesting that they are all about to become as rich as Croesus while their ERC counterparts drop hints that the Aviva Premiership sides will get but a fraction of the potential sums involved if they cannot deliver something that looks very like the current Heineken Cup. And while only they and the French are on board, they are falling a long way short of that.
"The BT deal was announced just before we started our discussions," said McGrath. "It is hard enough to get people to engage but then you have this set of cards, and people are not showing what is in there. They're not showing how they want to take things forward by putting it on the table. We don't know where we stand, that queered the pitch initially, then the issue of the new competition has increased the issue."
The most frustrating aspect of it all, for long-suffering fans of the sport at least, is that the positions of the warring factions have been known for more than a year - and could easily have been anticipated long before the BT deal was confirmed in the summer of 2012. Yet nothing of any significance appears to have happened. In public, at least, all the two sides seem to have done is dig themselves some deeper trenches. "There is a serious game of poker going on here," said McGrath. "We have heard from the chairman of the PRL that it is negotiation by brinksmanship. We need to get away from that."
The flames of the dispute were fanned on Tuesday when it became clear that a number of top Welsh players are stalling on decisions about their futures until they know what competitions they will be able to play in and whether the Welsh Rugby Union will be able to underwrite deals if they lose the €5million that Heineken Cup participation currently brings into their coffers each year.
"We have got clubs that are clearly under a lot of pressure financially," McGrath continued. "We have a lot of anxiety and the onus is on all of us to find a decision. We have headlines this week about the abyss, falling off the cliff, being close to the brink. We are not there yet. But we know that clubs are looking to sign off their budgets for next season and players are looking for assurances about where they stand. We need to find progress quickly."
The Rugby Football Union has yet to match the declarations of other governing bodies who have said they will not sanction the involvement of their clubs and players in a competition that is not ratified by the International Rugby Board, the game's global authority. Their silence on the matter has been a source of huge private frustration in other countries, but McGrath took the diplomatic position when the matter was raised.
"We would all like to see a statement of position but in terms of what we are trying to achieve, which is to get everything back to the table to try to find an agreement, a declaration would not necessarily help us achieve that end," said McGrath. "We know where the RFU stand, they share the same interest as any other union that any competition must be pan-European and be fully approved and played within the institutions of the game.
"They also have the position that they want to support their clubs. They have an important competition and have clubs that are clearly ambitious. They want to support that. Then throw into the mix that they want to have a successful World Cup [in 2015] and they want a positive outcome for England and English rugby.
"I know where they stand and I know the tough position that they find themselves in. They are trying to work very hard to get people back to the table."
Two weeks ago, ERC attempted to break the deadlock by bringing in an 'independent mediator', but English clubs have questioned the independence of Graeme Mew, the Canadian lawyer who has been given the job, as they had no say in his appointment. McGrath, however, believes something has to be done to hurry the process along.
"We recognise that is going to be hard, that is why we have brought in a mediator now," he said. "There is such a polarisation of positions that we need to have someone who can discuss with each of the parties and say: 'Stop telling me what you are saying in public and tell me what you really want, lets establish what are your real interest'. Then let's see if we can establish a consensus to get back to the table and get an agreement. I believe that every club that plays in this competition - and I have heard this from players and coaches - want it to continue. They love this competition and that gives me confidence that they want and expect to see an agreement.
"There is a lot of positioning and a lot of brinkmanship being played - maybe everybody can be accused of that. We need to get serious and we need to get round the table and find agreement because this is far too important and too good to lose."