Controversial league receives $9.3b kiss of life
WORLD Rugby's controversial proposal to create a radical new global league is back on after the game's governing body dangled a $9.3 billion carrot and changed some of its previous plans to appease the sceptics.
The concept looked dead in the water just a few days ago because of the reluctance of some northern hemisphere teams to support the inclusion of promotion and relegation but now everyone's having second thoughts after being told about the eye-watering money on offer over the first 12 years of the competition.
It's no secret that Rugby Australia needs to boost revenues so has been a vocal supporter of the general idea, with chief executive Raelene Castle saying the latest proposal with the huge jackpot on offer was a win-win for everyone.
"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," she said in a statement.
"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 (Rugby Union Players Association) before reverting back to World Rugby on our position ahead of the next round of discussions."The latest proposal was unveiled at an emergency meeting of leading rugby officials in Dublin on Thursday night after support for the initial plan appeared to be fading fast.
Like the previous drafts, there will be three divisions, with 12 countries in the top tier: the Six Nations teams (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, and Italy) as well as the four current Rugby Championship sides (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina). Two teams, most likely Japan and Fiji, would join the Rugby Championship.
Each team would play each other once a year with the best team from each conference meeting in a final, with World Rugby agreeing to ditch semi-finals after complaints from players about burnout.
The competition would not start until 2022 and would not be held in World Cup years but would provide opportunities for all teams to advance to the top tier through promotion and relegation, which was one of the sticking points for the Six Nations teams.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said the new proposal had been "well received" but there was still plenty of work to be done before World Rugby's next meeting in May where he hopes to have a final decision.
"As you would expect in an ambitious, complex and multi-stakeholder project, not everyone is in full agreement on the way forward, including the matter of promotion and relegation, but we will continue to engage and consult," Beaumont said.
If approved, the six teams in the expanded Rugby Championship will only play each other once a year, although Australia and New Zealand could organise an extra Bledisloe Cup match on the side, while northern hemisphere teams visiting Australia would no longer player series', except for the British and Irish Lions.
"The model currently in front of us looks like it could deliver many of the fundamentals we are seeking in a future championship," New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew said.
"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."
South Africa Rugby Chief Executive Jurie Roux also welcomed the proposal, saying it has "obvious appeal" but warning ""there are a number of due diligences to be performed and questions to be answered before anything can come to fruition."