The impact of the Rugby Champions Cup on Super Rugby
The Bulls celebrate their match winning try as a dejected Waratahs look on during their Super Rugby match (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
After serving notice two years ago, and after many months of speculation and arguments in the press it appears the landscape of European Rugby is about to change.
With the Welsh clubs joining the English and French in support of the new Rugby Champions Cup (RCC), it seems to be highly likely the Irish, Scottish and Italians will do so too (otherwise face financial collapse).
Say goodbye to the Heineken Cup.
The administrators running the RCC have been busy securing sponsorships, the finer details still need to be ironed out, but it appears that BT will be the main broadcasters and Guinness a major sponsor (I am sure the Irish appreciate the irony).
Whether Sky comes on board is still to be seen. They have also said that they are open to future expansion into markets outside Europe (note, there is no mention of ‘Europe’ in the title).
What is not clear at this stage is, what impact will this have on SANZAR?
The current SANZAR agreement ends in 2015. The future of SANZAR has not yet been defined.
South Africa has insisted on having six teams for political reasons, and this according to SARU is non-negotiable.
This means the current Super Rugby format is impossible. I haven’t heard much here recently apart from New Zealand proposing the Pacific Islanders have a team based in New Zealand and Japan have one based in Australia. I know Argentina want to join too.
I saw an interview with SARU chief Jurie Roux last week, and when asked if South Africa would join the RCC, he said it’s dangerous to have discussions about a tournament that has not yet been defined.
So basically he was non-committal and fair enough point, SARU can’t do anything until they know what their options are.
However, a lot has become clearer this week regarding the RCC with the Welsh clubs offering their support and the ERC meeting on Wednesday.
Will South Africa leave Super Rugby for the Rugby Champions Cup?
I know South Africa want to keep regular Test matches with New Zealand, i.e. the Rugby Championship. Can they play in Europe’s provincial Championship and still play in SANZARs (plus Argentina) tournament at test level? I don’t see why not.
I guess when SARU sit down to make their decision whether to approach the RCC about their inclusion, there will need to weigh up the pros and cons.
Advantages for South Africa
- More equal time zones.
- Less travel.
- Larger audiences, bigger markets and more revenue.
- Playing in the same league as many foreign based South African players.
- Easier travel for fans to build rugby travel packages.
- More European tourism to South Africa.
Disadvantages for South Africa
Some people say South Africa’s rugby will suffer because playing New Zealand keeps the standards high.
I disagree, I think Toulon for example is as good as any Super Rugby team. I heard they might play the Chiefs this year, but it probably won’t happen.
Advantages for Australia and New Zealand
- More equal time zones.
- Less travel.
Disadvantages to Australia and New Zealand
- Smaller audiences, smaller markets and less revenue.
- Players leaving and furthering careers abroad.
European football shows what happens when you give the power to the clubs. The spoils go to the richest.
Just look at Celtic, Benfica, Ajax, Bucharest. Once great clubs which are now just also-rans while the winning team always comes from one of four or five countries.
The ANZACs would look to Japan and the Pacific Islands for support, which could offer a larger market with its rewards.
A moral argument may be it would do a lot of damage to Southern Hemisphere rugby, especially in Australia.
You might say ‘who cares’ but rugby isn’t always about taking what is ‘best’ for yourself, it should be about spreading the game round the world.
I don’t want to see all of the best Australian players playing in France and England.
They should be playing in Australia in front of their own fans. I know Australia and New Zealand are far from perfect in this regard as they haven’t done too much to help the South Sea Islanders but it doesn’t excuse South Africa doing the same.
Sometimes the interests of the wider game have to come before self interest
This is a good point.
However the counter to this is, rewind back to 1995 when the SANZAR’s deals were first negotiated. South Africa formed a partnership with already aligned Australia and New Zealand.
As a result, when it came to negotiations, South Africa were on the back foot, and the deals favoured Australia and New Zealand over South Africa.
South Africa were naive and just happy to be back in international rugby. For example, I think only about three or four years ago did South Africa manage to keep the revenue from the Currie Cup and not have to share it with the other two, a domestic competition!
Currently South Africa bring more to the SANZAR table than New Zealand and Australia in terms of viewership, and are not rewarded accordingly. It does not make business sense to continue with that.
I do understand the above moral point, but then as noted why are the Pacific Islands currently neglected? The All Blacks have never played a Test there.
Also, what about Argentina? They are desperate for competition. At least South Africa has hosted their team in the Vodacom Cup.
Japan, Canada, USA, Kenya, etc. are not in any major competition either. Who do you choose?
Personally I don’t have much sympathy for Australia because they have been so self-serving for so long. They have a strong economy and a strong sporting tradition.
It’s their rugby union’s responsibility to promote rugby union above their other sporting codes. Why should South Africa give charity to a wealthier country?
South Africa has enough problems and if South African rugby can get more revenue from rugby and pass it onto underprivileged communities in Africa to try grow the game there, that would hold a lot more of a moral argument to be frank.
Also, do you think the RCC is acting for the good of the game, or looking after what’s best for themselves financially?
Rugby is now a professional, and run like a business where the bottom line is what counts.
Would the RCC door be open for South Africa to join in 2015?
There have been many press reports hinting that they would.
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