An Uphill Struggle for Rugby’s Nations League

World Rugby will stage an important meeting in Dublin today to discuss whether to go forward with plans for a Nations League that would tie closer the northern and southern hemisphere countries.

Chairman Bill Beaumont who is a champion of the plan will wake this morning though with a small sense perhaps of what Theresa May has been going through trying to bring reluctant parties around to a unified way of thinking.

The new tournament has been put forward from the half of the Rugby playing world that lies below the equator.  Their own Championship where Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina play annually is less of a money driver than the Guinness Six Nations and there appears little appetite to damage that competition or to lessen it, at least on the part of the main countries at a European level.

It has been reported that venture capital firm CVC have tabled a substantial offer to take a stake in the Six Nations, just as they have done already in the English Premiership and are understood to be close to doing with Pro14 Rugby.

That investment would wrestle some of the control of Rugby away from the governing body and place it in more overtly commercial hands.

The bet then is whether that extra money is used to grow the game faster than World Rugby’s own initiative and plans.

From a financial perspective the sport has a much narrower base than Soccer where neither  FIFA nor UEFA have ever been challenged because they have the ability to deliver. year in, year out.

For Rugby so much depends on the four year cycle of the Rugby World Cup with that injection of cash tiding national bodies over until the next time.

There is a major multiple in terms of the sponsorship that can be attracted and the money derived in football and rugby at the highest level.  Rugby deals in millions whereas the asking price to be involved with a football World Cup extends by way of two, three or even four zero’s.

Rugby has had a fast learning curve and has grown into the professional game at a time when professional sport has utterly transformed.

Looking to catch up through the creation of a more regular global competition, with promotion and relegation, as well as enhanced media revenue, is an idea that has obvious merit.

It would appear though that the greater strength off the field of the nations closer to home means they are less willing to share at a time when there is more money on the horizon that would retain rather than expand the status quo.

Bill Beaumont in Dublin, Theresa May in London.  The size of their shoes may be different but you wouldn’t really want to stepping into either pair.

 

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