Rugby bosses from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa have emerged from World League talks in Dublin this week with a fresh sense of support about the radical new competition.
Officials from around the globe met in the Irish capital on Thursday to discuss the concept of the proposed World Rugby Nations Championship, which was initially met with a barrage of criticism worldwide from players, coaches, fans, administrators and pundits for a variety of reasons including disregard for player welfare and a lack of opportunities for emerging nations.
However, World Rugby have since updated the blueprint for the competition, adding a promotion-relegation mechanism to provide tier two and three nations a pathway to compete with tier one countries, while reducing its initial number of fixtures by removing the semi-final round of the competition in a bid to address player welfare concerns.
Following positive meetings with rugby’s major stakeholders in Dublin today, here is the proposed Nations Championship format. pic.twitter.com/7lOzBgHWC7
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) March 14, 2019
World Rugby have also announced that, thanks to a record commercial partnership with leading global sports marketing company Infront, the new format would also inject £5 billion for investment in the sport over an initial 12-year period, and at least £1.5 billion of that figure is guaranteed incremental revenue for the world game.
The proposed business model covers both media and marketing rights but does not include any sale of equity in the competition, meaning full control of the competition and its revenue redistribution model would be retained by the unions, the current major competitions and World Rugby.
These new revelations that have stemmed from the talks held in Ireland over the last 24 hours have eased concerns held by key figures in the southern hemisphere.
New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew was impressed with the updated proposal by World Rugby, but stressed the importance of finding a balance between the interests of all involved parties, especially those of the Pacific Island nations.
“World Rugby has been working very hard on finding a solution that ensures the future growth of the game in New Zealand and around the world, including the Pacific,” Tew said.
“We now have a strong proposal for a World Rugby Nations Championship that we will need to take back to our stakeholders.
“The creation of a new championship, outside of Rugby World Cup years, has been the focus of discussions with World Rugby for several months and the issues are very complex.
“Our challenge has been to find balance between a model that delivers what fans are demanding, with the welfare of all players, growing the commercial strength of our competition and ensuring we are providing a pathway for other nations.
“New Zealand has been a strong advocate for a pathway for Pacific unions and emerging nations.
“The model currently in front of us looks like it could deliver many of the fundamentals we are seeking in a future championship.
“The prospect of new and potentially lucrative opportunities for rugby are exciting and the potential for a single point of purchase for existing and new broadcasters is also interesting.”
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle echoed Tew’s sentiments.
“The proposal put forward by World Rugby for the Nations Championship has the potential to deliver a great product for fans and significant commercial benefit for Australia and the game globally, including opportunities for emerging nations,” she said.
“We commend World Rugby on the work they have done in developing a strong proposal and we remain committed to working towards an outcome that can tick each of those boxes.
“These are exciting but complex discussions which require us to strike a balance between doing what’s best for fans, Australian Rugby as well as the global game, and the players.
“We will now continue the conversation with our member unions and RUPA before reverting back to World Rugby on our position ahead of the next round of discussions.”
South Africa Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said while there is immense potential for the competition to become successful, the format needs to be consulted with by member unions and player representatives before getting South Africa’s seal of approval.
“The model is an interesting one,” he said.
“Creating a meaningful season-long competition out of the current patchwork of events and tournaments has an obvious appeal as well as proving a clear development pathway for emerging nations, which speaks directly to one of the fundamental goals of World Rugby.
“It would also create new and potentially lucrative opportunities for the sport as well as a single point of purchase for existing and new broadcasting players.
“But there are a number of due diligences to be performed and questions to be answered before anything can come to fruition.”
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