The Rugby World is digesting the fact that as of this morning the Guinness PRO14 is no more and instead has been reborn as the United Rugby Championship.
The key elements are that the new tournament will be a straight 16 team League with the four Irish provinces in one regional pool, the four new teams from South Africa in another, the four Welsh teams in a third and a combined Scottish and Italian pool.
Each team will play three home and three away fixtures against their local rivals, as well as twelve games which will be either home or away against the remaining teams in the competition.
At the end of the regular season, 16 teams will become eight with the teams ranked according to their finishing position and playing home or away based on their League position in Quarter Finals and Semi-Finals.
The announcement this morning also revealed that discussions are at an advanced stage to allow the South African teams who finish in the top eight, and one guaranteed from the regional group, to play in the Heineken Champions Cup the season after the completion of the first year of the United Rugby Championship.
The tournament organisers have also committed to the format remaining as it will be next season for a period of at least five years, putting a halt to previously considered expansion plans in the United States.
It will though provide continuity and certainty for the Provinces as they emerge from the pandemic lockdowns.
CVC Capital Partners invested in the tournament last year, taking a 28 per cent stake and will likely play a key role in the development of sponsorship and broadcast arrangements.
On the latter, the Financial Times is reporting this morning that deals have already been signed for free to air coverage of the new tournament on RTÉ and the BBC with its own global streaming service also part of the wider broadcast arrangements.
There is no mention of sponsorship in the initial flurry of information coming out about the tournament.
Guinness has held the naming rights to the tournament under the Pro 12, Pro 14 and Rainbow Cup variations since 2014 but we have been unable to ascertain as yet if they will still be part of the new tournament.
Other partners include eir, who will be exiting from their sponsorship and broadcast commitments at the end of the current contract this year; Macron, Gilbert and Loch Lomond Whiskies.
This is a developing story and we will update as more information becomes available.
Sport for Business Partners