Unless you have been smothered in the middle of a ruck, the rugby world has been enthralled by the conversation over the proposed World League of Rugby. It has saturated sports news, and especially social media.
The reaction from administrations, stakeholders – which includes national organizations and the players – are all adding their voice to the ‘to be proposed’ plan to have a 12 team World League of Rugby. One that will essentially crown a world champion in years apart from the World Cup…or at least, that is what has been discussed.
World Rugby seems to have lost some of the control of the conversation, with posts and comment from CEO Brett Gosper and vice-Chairman Agustín Pichot, have done little to put out the flames of fans reaction.
To clarify the facts, Last Word on Rugby have included both the official statement from World Rugby, and a quote from New Zealand Rugby. As the conversation develops, official communication may be lost in the emotive responses of teams from the Pacific Islands, and parties disaffected and dissatisfied with the direction that is proposed for the elite of the game.
Statements made on proposed World League of Rugby
World Rugby; released March 1 via Twitter.
“World Rugby recognizes and values the importance of player considerations and input into the annual international competition discussions. However, the manner the International Rugby Players (IRP) organization has expressed these is surprising given regular engagement throughout this ongoing process. World Rugby’s commitment to player welfare matters is unwavering and we will continue to engage and give full consideration to the welfare of players within the ongoing discussions.
It is inappropriate to comment on specifics whilst wider stakeholder consultation is ongoing.
“It is important to note that assumptions regarding the proposed competition structure are inaccurate and that important matters; such as playing load and emerging nation opportunities, are at the heart of constructive dialogue.
“Consumer research confirms a structured annual competition would make fans and new audiences more likely to watch, attend and engage with international rugby, exposing the sport to new fans worldwide. There is also no doubt that a structured annual international competition would deliver significantly greater long-term global media revenue for reinvestment in the global game.
This project has at its heart long-term growth and stability, not short-term wins, and that includes greater opportunity for players.
As instructed by our Executive Committee and the Unions, we remain committed to a process of constructive dialogue with all stakeholders, including the IRP, to deliver a model that ensures the best-possible competition and commercial outcomes for all and a truly exciting and meaningful annual international competition structure that is great for players, clubs, fans and unions.
New Zealand Rugby statement on World League of Rugby
New Zealand Rugby continues to advocate for an international rugby calendar that ensures the future growth of the game around the world, including the Pacific. NZR chief executive Steve Tew said no decisions have been made about the future format for international rugby. The most recent proposals are less than 24 hours old when they were made public.
“World Rugby and the national unions; including New Zealand Rugby, have been working hard to increase the meaning and value of international Test matches. It is well documented that the game is under pressure to grow revenues, so the game from the community level up can thrive.
— 1 NEWS – Sport (@1NewsSportNZ) March 1, 2019
“We are all working hard to find a balance between preserving the integrity of rugby and providing a pathway for the smaller and developing nations here in Oceania but all around the world to develop and participate. We cannot go into the detail of any of the proposals because there is a layer of commercial sensitivity to these discussions as we are trying to introduce new capital to our game.
“Having said all that there are some fundamentals that New Zealand Rugby has made very clear from the outset. Any new competition must have a pathway for new and developing countries to join including our Pacific neighbours. That is not only fair and the right thing to do, but it also preserves the integrity of any competition.”
New Zealand Rugby are clear that ‘nothing has been decided’.
“Having said that nothing has been decided, we have not agreed to anything at this stage and have always been working to the March WR meetings, as the next opportunity to discuss the details. There’s no simple solution to this, but New Zealand Rugby remains committed to working through the proposals with the right people in the room.”
In conclusion; World League of Rugby proposal
Other nations will voice their support. Some will voice their will to participate. Some their desire for more information, and yet some will be in despair. Pichot has commented in interviews on New Zealand’s RadioSport that WR are far from settled on any plan. In player representative engagement, that seems to be a point of contention (that has been issued by many leading players).
His desire to assist in the growth of Tier Two nations should not be discounted, however, commercial interests may override personal desires.
In all the reporting, some have spoken of exclusive and quotes made by people who wish to stay anonymous. All good, and while the media wish to shine a light on any proposals, there is a clear Northern/Southern hemisphere split. The Six Nations will unite, and two nations have been ‘presumably’ added to The Rugby Championship. Strange combinations, and some that spit in the face of both World Rugby rankings. Are in conflict to their contribution to the game – it all makes for a busy, and emotional conversation.
Let us all wait, and see what the goal is announced as. Then, further discussion and debate have to be allowed. No fixed arrangement for the World League of Rugby should be made for a 12 year period either. That seems obtuse, never allowing any team the ability to ‘earn their place’. If those conditions stay, then angry reactions could turn political in nature.
However, it is simply an idea to date. But hopefully, it is one that will not break any relationships. It is still a ‘rugby united’ value that is at the core of our game.
“Main photo credit”
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