Where is World Rugby Heading?

Where is World Rugby Heading?


World Rugby had a spectacular World Cup late last year in Japan. It was actually three weeks too long (longer than the football World Cup and the Olympics), it experienced the odd earthquake or two (Scotland and Ireland lost to Japan) as well as a hurricane which flooded pitches and led to cancelled matches. The shocks belonged to the Six Nations, only Wales and England made it to the semi-finals. Scotland were abject, Italy were in a tough group and Ireland failed to turn up but edged into the quarter finals. The team of the tournament was Japan followed by South Africa. The game of the tournament was England’s mashing of the World Cup holders, New Zealand.

Fast forward to the Six Nations tournament which looks as if it will remain incomplete as the Coronavirus circles. All Italy games have been put on hold and the final week’s matches beginning 14th March 2020 look in doubt already the Italy v England game has been postponed. The other two Wales v Scotland and France v Ireland’s will depend on how fast the virus moves. It is not looking good. Should France have beaten Scotland (08/03) and then beat Ireland at home then they will be crowned champions. The rest of the games may remain unplayed.

There is another virus circling world rugby and it begins with the initial CVC. CVC wants to buy-in to world rugby especially the Six Nations. To the chagrin of the World Rugby organisation housed in Dublin and responsible for the World Cups this is not really what they want. They want total control of the world game. The Six Nations rugby unions know that every year the demand for tickets, supporting advertising, rights costs and marketing goes up and up and up. So as CVC draws ever closer to offering these six countries mouth watering amounts possible north of £3bn over a decade, we are into a serious step change in the game.

The first is who will write the laws? World Rugby or CVC? This is key. The second is who will show the games? Not obviously ITV or BBC. It will be Amazon Prime, Google or Netflix or a similar online organisation. It’s goodnight for ITV and BBC as they will only show highlights. An Amazon Prime could easily offer £5bn for a ten year deal and sell this package with supporting advertising to its global client base and recoup it. This is why World Rugby is feeling so down in the mouth.

The Laws are key. What if CVC with an American based sponsor brought some of the ways in which American Football, Baseball and Basketball has made the game both easier to understand (rugby has lost the plot) and faster? With maybe four quarters stretching over two hours? This feels like a head on collision to me between the traditional lists and the radicals. It could even spell the end of the organisation of rugby union per se. CVC is actually deep down CVCRR with one R standing for Revenues and the second for the Radicals.

The RFU is badly organised, afraid of innovation and much worse, appalling led (though the new CEO needs time). Which set of ignoramuses decided that later this year an England v Argentina game would kick off at 8pm on a Friday evening? Twickenham needs to be sold. It’s a joke. They are keen to shout out loud about the 83,000 spectators attending but the organising committee has no interest in how they will find their way to home at 10pm. Imagine that number trying to access trains (how many extra will be made available at that time by SW Rail, itself a parody?). As for the buses they will struggle to actually ferry ticket holders in from Richmond before the game as it will clash with the end the rush hour.

Perhaps, you can better understand why the Six Nations wants out. In order to go forward each of the six countries needs £400-£500m to create new stadia and twenty first century transport links. They all need to provide an underground or overground system which brings the spectator straight into the stadium, to take the game to the next step.

It’s all to play.

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