The name of the cup was changed to the Pilkington Cup for the 1989 tournament. Bath picked up from where they left off in the late 1980s, going onto win another six times from 1989-1996. Harlequins won their second title in 1991, and Leicester added to their three championships in 1993 and again in 1997. The cup changed its name again after Leicesters' 1997 victory, becoming the Tetley's Bitter Cup for the 1998 season. Saracens won their first title, defeating Wasps FC in 1998. Wasps were again in the final in 1999, and defeated Newcastle to claim their first championship. The Wasps also won the 2000 competition.
In 2001 the name of the tournament was changed to the Powergen Cup. Newcastle won the first Powergen Cup, defeating the Harlequins 30-27. The London Irish won it for their first time the following season, and Gloucester won it for the first time since 1982. Newcastle won in 2004, and in 2005 the Leeds Tykes defeated Bath to win it for the first time.
In place of the knock-out format, the 16 sixteen clubs are placed in four pools with 3 English clubs and 1 Welsh club. The pool stages of the Anglo-Welsh Cup tournament feature one game against each team. The winners of each of the four groups progress to the semi-finals. The pools will stay as they are for the following season as well, with home and away fixtures reversed and the club relegated from the Guinness Premiership's place taken by the club promoted from National Division One.
In addition to increased TV revenue (the revised Powergen Cup has already inked a handsome new broadcasting agreement with the BBC) and a possible boost to matchday income, the Powergen Cup will also offer its winner qualification to the even more lucrative Heineken Cup club competition. As base compensation all 16 Powergen clubs are guaranteed £250,000 each, with a prize fund of up to £200,000 available to the semi-finalists.
The Welsh clubs' inclusion initially caused them to be expelled from the Celtic League. Scottish and Irish officials were angered that the Welsh Clubs had apparently consented to Powergen Cup fixtures on the same weekend as Celtic League matches. The political fallout resulted in the purported expulsion of the Welsh clubs from the league. Eventually, a compromise was reached, and the Welsh clubs were readmitted.
Many rugby union commentators see the Powergen Cup as a boon to Wales as it reinforces their regional club structure begun in 2003 when Wales began the regional structure common to southern hemisphere powers such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. (See the Observer, "Fine for the Welsh, but at what cost to England?", 25 September 2005). The benefits are less apparent to the English clubs, especially as the breakdown between Twickenham and the Guinness Premiership clubs intensifies: while the Cup now attracts greater revenue and crowds than before the Welsh sides were admitted, it still lags behind the Premiership.
Interest in the Powergen Cup was high during the first two rounds. Over 100,000 spectators attend matches, while the television audience peaked at 1.2 million on BBC2 for the Newcastle Falcons v. Llanelli Scarlets match. Overall, the 2005-2006 cup drew a 12% attendance boost in the group stages over the previous year's competition.
The pools (or groups) for the Powergen Cup were decided on a regional basis, comprising of three English sides geographically close to one another, and one Welsh club again divided as far as possible by their location.
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