RFU chief Bill Sweeney has outlined to RugbyPass the reasons why he feels the introduction of promotion and relegation in the Six Nations currently isn’t a viable development.
Speaking following an end-of-season briefing at Twickenham, the new CEO believes Europe’s tier two system simply isn’t ready to cushion the financial ramifications of a big nation like England ever falling out of the top tier championship.
“Of course people would say you are not likely to be relegated, but I think you have got to plan for every possible eventuality,” he explained.
“So, if you were to have relegation tomorrow the issue for us is you don’t have a robust, viable tier two. If we were to drop into the current tier two it’s not like in football going from the Premier League to the Championship, you don’t really have a viable tier two structure there currently.
“So for us, the impact is very significant on the commercial side. Our broadcast rights, sponsorship rights, ticketing, hospitality would be significantly hit and then that starts getting into the question of the business model about this place [RFU HQ at Twickenham]. We can’t just immediately sign into it without knowing some more.”
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Sweeney, meanwhile, confirmed June is a significant month if World Rugby’s plan to set-up a new World Nations Championship is to come to fruition.
“It’s coming to the sharp end of that,” admitted the CEO, who was appointed in February to stabilise the RFU’s finances. “It is well known publicly that June is a key month where that is going.
“We [the RFU] support the concept. We think it makes sense. It’s good for the global growth of the game. From a financial point of view, the numbers are good to enable us to reinvest back into the game.
Fighting talk emerging from Twickenham this Wednesday https://t.co/0IPsC8EYit
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 13, 2019
“It is such a complex proposal. There are a number of issues around governance, around competition structure, around player welfare that we need to see a bit more detail on before we sign on the dotted line and I think that is the same with some of the other nations, so we are right in the middle of that process right now.
“You can expect to hear more over the coming month. In parallel to that, you have got project light which is the consolidation of the broadcasting rights in the northern hemisphere. It’s a busy time commercially.”
WATCH: Episode four of Rugby Explorer, the RugbyPass series hosted by Jim Hamilton, takes a trek through Italy, the nation most at risk if relegation is introduced in the Six Nations
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