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World Rugby looks for backing for new Nations Championship concept from key stakeholders

World Rugby looks for backing for new Nations Championship concept from key stakeholders
April 1, 2019

World Rugby is looking for widespread backing for its vision for the future of international rugby, including the proposed Nations Championship concept and supporting business model.

Presented during a meeting with international rugby’s major stakeholders in the Irish capital of Dublin last month, the international federation is undertaking this project in line with the mandate of its unions to secure a strong and sustainable competition and financial platform for unions and a true opportunity for emerging nations to develop and compete at the highest level.

At the meeting of unions, competition owners and international player representatives, World Rugby outlined details of a game-changing competition model that delivers a true pathway for all unions through a three-division format and a system of promotion and relegation.

The proposed format would be underpinned by a record commercial partnership from the Switzerland-based Infront Sports and Media group (owned by China’s Dalian Wanda) guaranteeing almost US$6.5 billion for investment in the sport over an initial 12-year period (of which more than US$1.9 billion is reportedly guaranteed incremental revenue for the game).

The proposed business model covers both media and marketing rights but does not include any sale of equity in the competition and therefore full control of the competition and its revenue redistribution model would be retained by the unions, the current major competitions and World Rugby.

There is scepticism from some of the governing bodies of Europe’s major countries competing in the Six Nations, who are weighing up a rival offer from investment company CVC, which it is understood could be worth US$130 million to each union in return for 30% equity.

Scotland and Ireland are reportedly unconvinced about the introduction of relegation from the Six Nations, which would be required if it became part of a global Nations Championship.

Following feedback from key stakeholders, World Rugby’s revisions to the original proposal presented to unions in September 2018 now proposes:

• A reduced schedule by removing the semi-final stage, with player welfare continuing to be a central consideration
• Players would play 11 Nations Championship matches (and a maximum of 12 matches if their team reaches the final), compared to an average of between 12 and 14 test matches presently
• Commitment to work with International Rugby Players and the leading domestic club competitions to optimise the model
• A commitment to invest in a Women’s Nations Championship to accelerate the global competitiveness of the game

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont commented “there was strong recognition that World Rugby’s Nations Championship proposal, based on a true pathway for all, has been developed with great care, extensive evaluation and with the global game at the forefront of our thinking.

“We are encouraged that the format revisions and robust financial model has been well-received.”

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