Rugby as you know it is coming to the end of its shelf life. The game’s top brass will meet in Los Angeles this week to discuss repackaging the game for global distribution.
According to Mail Online, World Rugby bosses will huddle with their counterparts from the major rugby nations in the City of Angels to consider a proposal to eliminate the north/south line that currently divides Test rugby.
Rugby neophytes will be thrilled with anything that promises change, but the collateral damage will include current cornerstones of the current calendar. The alignment of Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere rugby would almost certainly eliminate the November tours, compromise the Rugby World Cup and jeopardise both the Rugby Championship (the less interesting version of the Tri-Nations) and the Six Nations, which has traditions that stretch back almost 150 years.
The report confirms that “the talks have been prompted by a TV rights agency or major broadcaster looking to pay massive money for one deal that covers the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship” with the top teams meeting in a World League final.
“We don’t know if it’s a rights agency or a broadcaster, or a rights agency working with a broadcaster,” one source told the Mail Online. “What we are potentially looking at is someone buying international rugby… rugby is vulnerable to this kind of change.”
Indeed, while the marketing of the professional game has improved tremendously in the Northern Hemisphere, it is still light-years behind the quality and relevance of the product sold to supporters of the world’s leading sports leagues.
The Six Nations is run by a private company while Sanzaar rules over Southern Hemisphere rugby, and that’s why World Rugby, more of a facilitating organisation than a governing body, would be excited about the increased control they would gain from global alignment.
For South Africa and the three remaining Sanzaar partners, this change could level the rugby economy with an equal share of revenue from a global tournament potentially arming the southern powerhouses with enough money to combat the player drain to the north.
“We want to look after our competitive advantages and we need to increase the revenue we’ve got,” NZ Rugby chief Steve Tew told Radio Sport. “All countries come to the table with similar expectations.”
— Staff Writer