It is a step in the right direction but the revamped formats of the European Champions Cup and the second tier Challenge Cup, which were announced yesterday, still fall some way short of providing an easy-to-understand structure for supporters and a guaranteed level playing field for competing teams.

The 24 clubs competing in next season’s Champions Cup – including Glasgow Warriors next season – will now be split into four pools of six. Each team will play four of the five other teams in their pool either home or away, they will not face any side in the same domestic league, and the top four out of the six teams in each pool will progress to the knock-out stages, with each fifth-placed team being entered into the European Challenge Cup knockout phase.

This is an improvement on the last three seasons when teams were split into two pools of 12, then played just two other teams both home and away, with the top eight teams in each pool progressing to the knock-out stages on the basis of those results.

However, many rugby fans will continue to yearn for a return to the fully-seeded six pools of four format (with each team playing every other team in their pool twice on a home and away basis), which served the competition so well from 1997 until 2020. Unfortunately, reprising this structure would require two extra European weekends to be set aside in an already overpacked season schedule, which is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Meanwhile, the 18 clubs in the Challenge Cup – including Edinburgh – will now be placed in three pools of six (as opposed to one pool of 10 and one pool of eight as was the case last season). As with the Champions Cup, clubs will play four different opponents either home or away, with the four highest-ranked clubs from each of the pools qualifying for the knockout stage.

“The new competition structures which have been devised in conjunction with the Ligue Nationale de Rugby, Premiership Rugby and the United Rugby Championship signal a modified return to a tried and tested multi-pool format,”an EPCR press release said.

The revamped structure allows both competitions to continue to be played over eight weekends with four pool stage rounds and four knockout stage rounds, culminating in the London 2024 finals which will be staged at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium next May.

“We are delighted to announce the new format for the 2023-24 season,” said EPCR Chairman Dominic McKay, who is the former chief operating officer of the Scottish Rugby Union. “We’ve been working hard with our leagues and key stakeholders to ensure we have the right competition structures – for players and clubs, but also crucially for the supporters.

“Our focus has always been to ensure everyone can easily understand, engage with and follow our tournaments and to ensure we have a structure that creates real sporting jeopardy in as many games as possible.

“We reached this conclusion following a thorough process in which we engaged with stakeholders in a meaningful way – not just our leagues and unions, but also our broadcasters, partners and around 1,000 rugby enthusiasts to get their views.

“We will continue to work with our stakeholders to look at ways in which we can improve both tournaments, which is at the heart of our strategy and commitment to fans, clubs and partners.

“Our competitions truly are the pinnacle of club rugby, and we have to ensure it remains in that position, engaging and enthralling existing and new audiences along the way.”

A big issue with the new structure is that teams can be unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged by scheduling anomalies, not least from it being a matter of pure chance as to who has home advantage in key pool matches.

In this “modified” Champions Cup structure, the winners of each participating “domestic” league (French Top 14, Gallagher Premiership and URC) plus the tournament’s current champions (La Rochelais) will be the top seeded team in each pool, with the remaining 20 clubs allocated into the pools by means of an “open” draw.

However, the draw will have to be engineered to some extent to ensure there is no more than two clubs from the same league in any pool.

Rugby really does not help itself in its quest to reach a wider audience with over-complicated tournament formats such as this.

The pool draws for this year’s tournaments will take place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on June 21.