Super Rugby: Is expansion really the anwer?
162 Have your say
The Chiefs perform the Haka after their win against the Sharks in the Super Rugby grand final (Image: AFP / Marty Melville)
The current Conference format of the Super rugby Tournament has 15 teams playing a total of 120 pool matches, plus 5 additional matches for the play offs.
There are talks of the Super Rugby tournament being expanded in 2016, obviously with an aim to once again increase television revenue. I question the intentions of increasing the number of teams when in reality the quality of the tournament will be diluted through this.
Is it truly the best way to increase revenues when the SANZAR nations are already struggling to put 5 competitive teams each into the tournament and is it not strength vs strength that supporters want to see?
There is a case to be made that SANZAR is chasing money in an arse about face manner by thinking more teams bring in more revenue when the current setup is not optimized for available number of games that can be played.
Understandably the number of games played dictates the revenue, not only for gate money but also television revenue, but there is a way to retain the number of matches played and still increase the quality of the competition.
Consider 12 teams playing home and away fixtures against one another, completely ignoring the conference system. If twelve teams were to play home and away matches against all other teams you would have 132 matches played during the round robin, then include Semi-Finals and a final and you end up with 135 matches, ten matches more than is currently being played.
The benefits of reducing teams are numerous, more revenue for less teams, better quality rugby all round and a fair competition whereby no team escapes playing all other teams. Granted the local derbies are reduced from 20 matches to 12, but the credibility of the competition is enhanced and supporters should feel more satisfied that their team has a return leg against all comers.
SANZAR currently faces the challenge of deciding where they will take Super Rugby’s future. The expansion into other markets for the sake of bigger television audiences with more revenue that will have to be split amongst more teams would only reduce the quality and could become financially less viable. Surely this would mean that it would no longer live up to its name as a “Super Competition”, but would merely be a more global competition that represents a hotchpotch of teams assembled for the almighty dollar.
SANZAR need to consider the benefit of having fewer teams play more matches, and a double round robin would provide them with more revenue. Due to each participating country having to fund only four teams there will be more expendable cash to finance the next tier development in all three nations.
Australian supporters are begging for a sustainable next tier competition that will ensure development of players and provide a constant stream of new talent.
South Africa and New Zealand will also benefit as the extra revenue will increase their finances for the Currie Cup and ITM cup.
Are we really in favor of diluting the quality of the teams and expanding Super Rugby into other markets? There is of course the consideration that must be made for Argentina who will at some stage want to join Super Rugby as well.
Would it not be much better to have a closed competition between the four nations participating in the Rugby championship than expanding willy nilly into other markets?
The intention of Super Rugby has always been to increase revenue to make professional rugby sustainable in the SANZAR nations and with Argentina being included from this year, that responsibility should include them rather than anyone else. However the quality of the competition should never come under threat.
Argentina has a proud rugby tradition and a passionate following, being part of the SANZAR nations would surely improve their standing as a potential rugby powerhouse.
There is a lot of talk about increasing the number of Foreign imports to accommodate more teams to become competitive in Super Rugby, some have suggested the allowance to be as many as 5 players per Franchise, but realistically how does that help the domestic situation?
If five teams have five foreigners in a squad of 30 there are 125 domestic players from each nation being exposed to Super Rugby, whereas if there are four teams with no foreigners then there are 120 local players gaining experience.
So the foreign players in essence would then really just facilitate the existence of a fifth franchise, wouldn’t it? Consider the amount of salary paid to foreign players that could go towards developing local players.
SANZAR need to stand firm and consider the options carefully, growth isn’t always the best answer to increase revenues. The Private Business sector often consider their expenses vs revenue and optimize their profitability in local markets before expanding into foreign markets that may increase revenue, but might not always be the best way to go.
SANZAR has a high quality product (yes, sadly rugby has become a “product”) and the focus must always remain on the sustainability of the quality, mass production in any language dilutes quality and hence ultimately profitability.
Just a thought.
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