News of a proposed World League featuring the top 12 Test nations sparked a frenzy in the global rugby community last week. The AOR team wades in to debate the pros and cons.
Tank Lanning – YES
Even if just to witness England’s June tour of Japan, South Africa and Argentina, I am for the proposed World League!
A normal Super Rugby jaunt for our boys, yet now it has the players concerned about long-haul flights and playing in different time zones. How come only when the Northern Hemisphere sides are being asked to do it?
I also find it slightly disingenuous for the Southern Hemisphere players spending their off-season in Europe or Japan to start complaining about player load. Especially when the proposed 11 games (13 for those that make the final) is actually less than most are playing at the moment.
Might the player uppity-ness be more about keeping lucrative club contracts, I wonder?
Franchises, provinces, and even clubs may come and go, but countries will always be here. It’s important to keep international rugby as the pinnacle of the sport.
World Rugby had to do something on the international front to combat the cash flowing into the club game in Europe. They have now done that and it is core to Test rugby’s survival.
In effect, the incoming June tour would be replaced with three Tests versus different Northern Hemisphere sides. And in the Rugby Champs, there would be Japan and USA Tests instead of second Tests against Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. With a potential 2 extra Tests on EOYT if the Boks make the semis and final.
Rugby World Cup years would be sans the proposed World League games, as would the years in which there is a Lions tour, so there is space for good old fashioned tours – Vital!
So we move away from being completely obsessed with World Cup years, recognise regular performance, make the Bok vs All Black game more exclusive, keep Test rugby relevant, and generate money to power second tier comp that allows for promotion and relegation.
What’s there not to like? I love it!
Zelím Nel – NO
Any initiative to consolidate and showcase rugby’s best players and/or teams into one premier, annual tournament gets my vote. The Rugby World Cup is exactly that, but global spectators only get to see rugby in such context once every four years.
Outside of the Rugby World Cup, the game is divided into comps where the winners get regional bragging rights. It’s diluted and, unless you’re connected to one of those regions, pretty meaningless. The European audience doesn’t really care who wins Super Rugby, and the Sanzaar audience generally couldn’t be arsed with the Heineken Cup.
Rugby is still coming to grips with the principle that money is what decides whether a pro sport lives or dies.
Instead of investing revenue in the infrastructure and marketing needed to grow a concentrated audience through appeal, Sanzaar spends a big chunk of its revenue flying teams across the planet to perform in front of half an audience while the other half is sleeping.
And that’s one of two reasons why a World League of nations is a bad idea – having regional fans spread latitudinally across the globe delivers a competition that can never be digested by the whole audience at any one time.
The other is that World Rugby doesn’t have the kahunas to repackage the game for mass market appeal, they want to position a World League around existing tournaments like you might lay wors around chops on a full braai-grid. That’s a shortcut to a punctuated competition with no real impetus that ends with a “ICYMI: New Zealand won” headline.
No, rugby needs a marquee, annual competition (separate from Test rugby) where the best players are pooled into privately-owned franchise teams that compete in a league where there’s maximum exposure to current fans.
This would require a narrow band of times zones such as is provided by pivoting the league around -0° longitude which runs in proximity to London and is close enough to Dublin in the west and Durban in the east to make it a sweet-spot for potential broadcasters.
Pad those 12 teams with the best imported Kiwis, Aussies, Pacific islanders, Japanese, Argentine and North American players that money can buy, and you’ll have something that the world will sit up and take notice of between Rugby World Cups.
You’ve read what they think, now let us know where you stand in The Big Debate!