A way forward for rugby in Australia part two
Sharks player Jannie du Plessis (R) tackles Reds Will Genia during the Super Rugby qualifying final between the Queensland Reds and the Sharks (AFP / Patrick Hamilton)
After my first post last week (a way forward for rugby in Australia), I was surprised how many people agreed with the basic concept, but a common theme in response was ‘we can’t afford it’.
I would like to debate that point.
I believe that the model presented is more affordable, and Super Rugby is the model we cannot afford. Every level of rugby is compromised to suit Super Rugby.
When rugby turned professional, it introduced Super Rugby – arguably the highest level of rugby in the world. A Ferrari. But at what cost when all other levels of rugby have been sacrificed to pay for it?
Briefly, my model is:
Late Feb-June ITM, ARC, Currie Cup. A break in June with inbound tours from northern hemisphere teams. July-early October Heineken cup/knockout style comp involving all teams from three countries, with the Rugby Championship to be played July-September.
This is more affordable, because each country can run its competition to its desired level. For example, eight teams for Australia, 10 for New Zealand and 12 for SA, whatever is the best model for each individual country.
Also, importantly, it will allow each country to fund its teams at a level each country can afford.
How do we pay for it? The domestic comp can be sold by each country to its own broadcasters with hopefully a free to air component introduced. But the main funding will be the knockout/Heineken comp, which will run for three months and involve teams from all three countries. This comp will potentially have up to 30 teams in it. So pay TV will be interested.
What are the advantages? Bloody heaps!
It allows each country to run its rugby at a level affordable to that country, still maintains a competition that involves all three countries, brings back tribalism so supporters can support teams that they believe in and it helps streamline the seasons instead of the ridiculous setup we have now (look at next year’s Super draw and NZ’s ITM cup squeezed into seven weeks).
And what about the expansion possibilities! You could introduce teams from Japan, the Pacific Islands, USA – you name it – to the Heineken cup, without compromising your own national competitions.
I also believe that the level of rugby will still be attractive to fans and supporters. Budgets may be smaller than the current Super teams but as the competition grows so can budgets.
Right now I believe rugby union needs to take a step back, if it wants to move forward. The Ferrari is now 15 years old and the maintenance costs are killing rugby.