Why Twiggy’s “IPL of rugby” won’t work

Thomas English Roar Guru

By Thomas English, Thomas English is a Roar Guru


182 Have your say

    The Indo Pacific Rugby Championship is a weird and wonderful concept.

    Weird in the sense that it (likely) will involve six different teams from six different countries that aren’t traditional rugby nations.

    Wonderful in the sense that it will re-establish the Western Force.

    But any competition that hopes to succeed needs financial sustainability and relevance.

    With Andrew Forrest behind the wheel, this competition looks to be in a good spot.

    And that brings us to relevance. Exactly what will this competition mean to the average sports fan in the Indo-Pacific region?

    While the intent to grow rugby in Asia ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup is commendable, will this venture even work? Is the competition just a gimme for the Force?

    The Western Australia side are the only locked-in team, with places like China, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Kuala Lumpur, Colombo, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Seoul all being thrown around as possibilities for clubs.

    None of these places are traditional rugby strongholds and none currently follow the sport in large numbers.

    If the Sunwolves are anything to go by, starting a team form scratch is ambitious at best.

    When you factor in that the Force won’t have played a game for 18-plus months, the comp may lack for depth and competitiveness.

    Free-to-air TV seems to be a big drawcard, but what Aussie network will broadcast a competition that only involves one local team, playing out of WA, when the major commercial broadcasters are all based in the eastern states?

    What fan would seriously be interested in watching Singapore vs Hong Kong at 10pm on a weekend?

    This is innovative thinking from Twiggy, but it won’t bring in many supporters, nor will we see top-class competition anytime soon. Let’s hope that this competition does succeed however, for the sake of the game.

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    The Crowd Says (182)

    • November 25th 2017 @ 3:21am
      AndyS said | November 25th 2017 @ 3:21am | ! Report

      I’m imagining that the key misconception is that “Australian rugby” is who it is targeted at, as I doubt that is the case. I would assume the target audience for Singapore vs Hong Kong would be as many of the 13 million people in those places as they can get, presumably with the ultimate aim of making that as many as possible. So it will be interesting to see how they go with that and how they make it relevant and competitive. But I suppose anything is likely to be better than all the nothing they have now and can hope for otherwise, including WA.

      • Roar Guru

        November 25th 2017 @ 10:47am
        Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 10:47am | ! Report

        People doesn’t just equal interest though.

        Australia has 24M people but despite over a century of history and a culture of sporting interest, rugby has only ever been able to engage a fraction of that.

        • November 25th 2017 @ 5:04pm
          andrewM said | November 25th 2017 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

          Exactly TWAS..as shown by 4m in Melbourne showing no interest in the Rebels..

          • November 27th 2017 @ 11:42am
            Brian said | November 27th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

            Wrong mate – i show plenty of interest as do many of my mates!

        • November 25th 2017 @ 10:45pm
          Terry Tavita said | November 25th 2017 @ 10:45pm | ! Report

          yea, but that’s just the australian experience..rugby was nearly dead in georgia in the mid-1990s..now it’s the biggest most popular sport in that country..streets ahead of other sports..

        • Roar Guru

          November 28th 2017 @ 11:23am
          Timbo (L) said | November 28th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

          But Rugby League has.

          Aggressive marketing and Free to air. The Opposite of Super Rugby.
          They aren’t advertising Land Rovers to their punters it is a game for the everyman.

          • Roar Guru

            November 28th 2017 @ 12:26pm
            Train Without A Station said | November 28th 2017 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

            Rugby League also has a product that appeals to FTA – high volume local content.

            It had an established product with FTA Sports broadcasting really began.

      • November 25th 2017 @ 11:10am
        hog said | November 25th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

        I can’t help but think that Twiggy has got this all wrong. If it is his genuine desire to assist WA rugby why would he not have used that so called $50 million to propose a new domestic based alternative competition come 2020.

        It is the failings of Super rugby (and a massive dose of incompetence) that have ultimately led to the demise of the Western Force, sadly they were always going to have the shortest straw.

        Yet in proposing this new competition, we just get another hyped up Pay TV money pit version of Super Rugby with more pins in the map with a bunch of so called “rugby waiting to explode” teams competing.

        In my opinion, he has given the ARU (or whatever they are called these days) a classic leave pass.
        By proposing a domestic alternative, he would have forced the ARU to become involved and make a decision by removing its forever excuse the lack of money.

        This would finally have allowed an option other than Super rugby to be floated. And in doing so the game could start addressing the issue that has always held the code back, a lack of a domestic product capable of driving growth, and then allow it to start to leveraging its international appeal.

        Yet even if the competition survives come 2020 what options will the game here have except version 211 of Super rugby, and a bunch of rugby journeyman running around Asia filling their pockets before it all invariably collapses

        And now the very same board implicit in many of the decisions directly related to the mess we are in now are appointing the next CEO, which will invariably lead to someone that does not rock the boat or ask to many questions, you guessed it another worldwide search?

        So, Twiggy by choosing the IRPC option has ensured the next CEO will continue to lift the carpet.
        Forrest could have started a rugby revolution here, but in the end, I reckon he’s just started another round of Fantasy rugby.

        • November 25th 2017 @ 11:20am
          Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

          Imagine how much $50M could have improved the NRC over 3 seasons?

          $10M would have made it fully professional and left about $500k for each franchise to assist in operating costs each year.

          A better NRC would allow us to be in a position to run a shortened SR and lengthened NRC.

          • November 25th 2017 @ 6:46pm
            andrewM said | November 25th 2017 @ 6:46pm | ! Report

            Pray Tell , why would Twiggy want to do anything that directly benefits Eastern Australian Rugby? This is after all a direct response to the treatment of Rugby in Western Australia. IPRC and EARU aren’t even on the same page and for the immediate future not even on the same continent.

            EARU turned down Twiggy’s support and now he’s plotted a new course, so the rhetorical question about what a cool $50 mil could have done should be directed to the EARU. I have no doubt their agreement to the IPRC is through gritted teeth and pressure from the IRB.

            I didn’t know that the Sri Lankan Rugby Union had 100,000 players. Imagine what some professional support infrastructure could do to their standards. In 12 years the Force grew their local player base from 1 local player to 12. With nearly 10 times the player base it wouldn’t be unreasonable that 5 or 6 local players in Sri Lanka could be brought up to somewhere near NRC standard within a couple of years with the right support. Throw in some journeymen and some marquee players who’ve missed out on World Cup selection and kicking it off in a World Cup year doesn’t sound like such a bad idea after all.

            Will it be a long term success? Who knows. Will it kick start an Asian Rugby Revolution? I’m not yet convinced, but positively engaging, rather than pillaging, the rugby stocks of a lower tier nation sounds like a much more positive way to expand world rugby to me.

            Will it succeed?

            • November 25th 2017 @ 7:37pm
              Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:37pm | ! Report

              He wouldn’t.

              But surely a better Aus national domestic competition is better for WA?

              • November 25th 2017 @ 8:33pm
                Bakkies said | November 25th 2017 @ 8:33pm | ! Report

                Apart from supplying more players to the Rabble where else do they go after that?

                On the NRC the RA have still not guaranteed the Spirit’s future

              • November 25th 2017 @ 9:35pm
                Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 9:35pm | ! Report

                They haven’t guaranteed the Reds future either. Pretty sure they’ll be around in 2018 though…

                You only think they need to guarantee it because you’ve decided in your own mind they are gone despite the ARU never once suggesting that was the case.

              • November 25th 2017 @ 10:41pm
                AndyS said | November 25th 2017 @ 10:41pm | ! Report

                Last I remember seeing was this. Would suggest that if things have moved on, they probably should indeed clarify the situation.

                Nice false analogy though – they don’t need to guarantee the Reds, the Reds have one of those pesky licenses that so legally tie everyone’s hands. Does the Spirit…?

                Looking at RA’s own website, I wouldn’t necessarily even be holding my breath on the NRC as a whole. Their own reporting of the Cheika quote differed slightly, noting that “…Cheika said NRC would be critical IF it remains on a long-term basis….’If that’s what will be there, then that’s going to be something that we focus on…'”

            • November 28th 2017 @ 10:18am
              Thomas English said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

              andrewM I know what you’re saying, But twiggy has stated that this competition will make rugby the best game in Australia, not just WA. So he clearly is interested in doing something for aussie rugby

          • November 25th 2017 @ 7:29pm
            ScottD said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:29pm | ! Report

            Yes, imagine if the ARU hadn’t thrown $ down the drain by continuing to support tge Rebels after burning $14m.

            • November 25th 2017 @ 8:35pm
              Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 8:35pm | ! Report

              Imagine if they didn’t have a legal obligation to provide a team?

              • November 27th 2017 @ 7:59am
                In brief said | November 27th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

                So it wasn’t a financial decision? So convenient..

            • November 25th 2017 @ 8:36pm
              Bakkies said | November 25th 2017 @ 8:36pm | ! Report

              Just 14 million?

              • November 25th 2017 @ 10:34pm
                ScottD said | November 25th 2017 @ 10:34pm | ! Report

                That was the first debacle. Others followed

        • November 25th 2017 @ 1:18pm
          AndyS said | November 25th 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

          But in doing so would have gone head to head with RA for their viewers and market, which would have given them a free pass to shut it all down. And while I also assumed he might go down the NRC path, the same problem would have cropped up. There is no way the ARU would have given him a free hand, and there clearly wasn’t going to be any trust there.

          Having been sacked from the company, one would be like setting up a direct rival next door and the other like begging to be allowed to run a subdivision. The first would be a straight-up declaration of war, the other completely giving up. So I guess he went with why fight them; set up a different business. Much more difficult for sure, but a clean slate at least. The comp is nothing to do with ‘Australian rugby’…that is the hand dealt. Instead it is about West Australian rugby and Asian rugby. RA can use it as a source of Wallabies, or not, but that is the limit of it and they can choose for themselves. Other than that, perhaps least seen soonest mended for all involved.

          • November 25th 2017 @ 1:51pm
            hog said | November 25th 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

            Good points, and if true shows just how ridiculous this situation is. The fact that a compromise for the good of the game could not be entered into is just shameful, but also hints that moving forward invested agendas will prevent any real change, which is my point regards those same vested interests choosing the new CEO.

          • November 25th 2017 @ 3:03pm
            Bakkies said | November 25th 2017 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

            That would also mean that WA will have no pro Rugby in 2019 (the likely starting year for the IPRC). The RA have done sweet fa to find WA an alternative competition so what would they do for the next two years.

            Twiggy has said he will sponsor the NRC.

            With the RA it doesn’t matter who the next CEO is while the Chairman is still lurking a bad smell

            • November 25th 2017 @ 3:52pm
              Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

              “Finding” an alternative competition?

              It’s not something you need to search for. Either a viable alternative exists, or it doesn’t.

              SA are fortunate to share a time zone with the UK and have the Pro12 teams having the need to bring in TV income.

              WA doesn’t offer any of that to anybody, and Top League is the only possible competition, running at the wrong time of year, as a inter-company competition rather than independent commercial competition.

              • November 25th 2017 @ 4:23pm
                Bakkies said | November 25th 2017 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

                So you expect Rugby in WA to shut down professionally for good? That’s a typical you expect from a Rebels/the RA employee.

              • November 25th 2017 @ 7:38pm
                Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:38pm | ! Report

                Pretty sure I never said anything abou that…

              • November 25th 2017 @ 8:38pm
                Bakkies said | November 25th 2017 @ 8:38pm | ! Report

                So what have you said then? The RA are supposed to be the governing body for Rugby in Australia not a consulting firm along with being a benevolence fund for the Rebels and Reds.

              • November 25th 2017 @ 9:23pm
                Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 9:23pm | ! Report

                That in this case there was no viable alternative no matter how hard or how little one looked….

                Basically what I said originally.

              • November 25th 2017 @ 11:27pm
                Bakkies said | November 25th 2017 @ 11:27pm | ! Report

                They didn’t even bother to look. They close them down and sacked the staff

              • November 27th 2017 @ 8:04am
                In brief said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:04am | ! Report

                Which makes the decision to cut the Force even more irresponsible on all metrics – player participation and development, fan engagement, financial sustainability and growth.

              • November 27th 2017 @ 9:01am
                Ex force fan said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

                There were several viable alternatives. They did not had to roll over to SANZAAR, they could have persuaded a merger etc. With Clyne “leading” the most incompetent administration in Australia I think WA rugby’s future is surely not in Australia,

              • December 4th 2017 @ 10:57pm
                Ex force fan said | December 4th 2017 @ 10:57pm | ! Report

                Message from Hodgson: the IPRC with their not invented here mentality will not allow the IPRC to succeed. WA need to resign from Rugby Australia and go their own way. There is no future for WARugby in Australia with the incompetent executive and ARU Board in charge. None of this is in the press as usual!

                To All Rugby Fans and Rugby Lovers in WA

                It is with great disappointment that I write to tell you we are going to have to postpone our Rugby Community event on the 10th of December.

                We have now hit a major road block with Rugby Australia in relation to the endorsement of the Indo Pacific Rugby Championship. We are continuing negotiations, but the current Rugby Australia position is so uncommercial and unreasonable that it ensures the failure of the IPRC before it even starts. We have been trying to meet with the Chair of the Rugby Australia working group but he is unavailable till next week even at this critical time.

                It remains obvious to us after three months of continuous negotiations that Rugby Australia doesn’t have the best interest of the Western Australian rugby community at heart. Rugby Australia’s demands include money to support East coast based programs rather than supporting the WA community, even as they are crippling our local rugby infrastructure. We will not be sending any more money over east, our money will remain for our people and to grow our game in Western Australia.

                We are not giving up – far from it. We will be moving the event to the new year to have a greater build up and focus on the celebration of the Rugby Community of Western Australia.

                Please rest assured that the future of rugby in Western Australia is at the forefront of our minds and we are taking this time to sit down with Rugby WA, Rugby Juniors and Future Force and plan what the future will look like

                It is my personal endeavour to make sure the people of Western Australia have rugby in their lives from the U6 playing his or her first game, through the 1st grade debutants and those aspiring to be representative and professional players, to the myriad of volunteers who are the heart and soul of our clubs.

                As a professional rugby player, who is now not only a fan but also a coach and father, I know how important the game is to people. I will be doing everything I can to give the rugby community a positive future. The professionalism and enthusiasm that has mobilised behind our efforts to save WA rugby is beyond anything I have seen in all my years involved with the sport. I look forward to working with everyone to continue making rugby a success in WA.

                Please maintain the hope and strength that makes the Sea of Blue the formidable force that has always fuelled rugby in this state. We have never backed down and remain strong because we have the biggest heart and passion for our game.
                Thank you for your support. Every word and sign of support motivates us to keep fighting for what we know is right and for the game that we all love.


        • November 25th 2017 @ 1:50pm
          Rebellion said | November 25th 2017 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

          I just can’t imagine too many people watching the Indo Pacific Comp

          Even with a few teams cut from Super rugby I don’t think that will get back on track unless they cut the Sunwolves and Jaguars. Super 12 was great because it was only the 2 games in South Africa every season you would miss and if you were really into it, you could record those and replay them in the morning.

          I stopped watching replays a couple of years ago and recently got rid of Foxtel altogether.

          I think the way to go would be to create a breakaway professional organisation with the support of NZ and Sth African teams. Get the good players back, make sure the likes of Dean Mumm never return and install a neutral & objective national selection committee so every player gets an equal chance to genuinely earn a gold jersey. No more Nic Phipps instead of Joe Powell or Ned Hanigan instead of ‘where do I start’.

          I’d also amend Chieka’s contract inserting 25% penalty reductions in annual pay for every embarrassing and ungracious incident likely to come following a loss. That might help him to pull his head in

          • November 25th 2017 @ 4:14pm
            Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

            You lost me at amending an executed contract.

            What do you do when he says no?

    • November 25th 2017 @ 5:18am
      Bakkies said | November 25th 2017 @ 5:18am | ! Report

      Watch the RA hopefully without that parasite de Clyne come crawling to Twiggy when Super Rugby goes to pot. Sri Lanka have something like 79,000 registered players and Twiggy is looking for investors who contribute to the running of their teams

    • November 25th 2017 @ 6:23am
      terry tavita said | November 25th 2017 @ 6:23am | ! Report

      rugby is big in hk but it will be interesting in thoise other places..shanghai has a sizeable western community where there’s some potential..it’s untested waters..who knows, it could be a raging success..

      • November 25th 2017 @ 8:48am
        Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        Terry having known people that play top level rugby in Hong Kong I disagree it’s big.

        Players who played for HKCC claim that crowds would get up to 2-3 thousand for games.

        Good support, but nowhere big enough to support it as a high level professional game.

        Maybe they can engage all that support to follow a single team, but I’m doubtful as it rarely manages to work like that.

        • Roar Guru

          November 25th 2017 @ 2:40pm
          jeznez said | November 25th 2017 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

          We had the Cup of Nations up here over the last few weeks.

          Russia, Chile, Kenya and HK played each other in double headers over three weekends.

          Final round was last weekend. Played at HKFC, ground capacity of 2,750 and it wasn’t full. I’d suggest less than half full.

          During the Asian nations the same ground is often used and will be full for Japan and Korea.

          There is broadcasting but the general populace aren’t bought in. Is the rugby community itself, which is significant that is engaged.

          Who do you know at HKCC? That is where I am.

          NB. I have heard a pro-team plan for HK but it wasn’t IPRC – am waiting for the announcement off the back of the Nov 14 meeting with World Rugby – am surprised we haven’t heard anything since that meeting.

          • November 25th 2017 @ 2:54pm
            Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 2:54pm | ! Report

            Mak Stowers. I think he played there last year. He’s back in Melbourne now.

            Also used to play with Taumafai Komiti who is at Hong Kong Scottish.

            • Roar Guru

              November 26th 2017 @ 12:34am
              jeznez said | November 26th 2017 @ 12:34am | ! Report

              I know both Mak and Tommy. Good guys.

              • November 26th 2017 @ 7:44am
                Train Without A Station said | November 26th 2017 @ 7:44am | ! Report


              • Roar Guru

                November 28th 2017 @ 1:04pm
                jeznez said | November 28th 2017 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

                Wow – you post under a psuedonym while posting their full names.

                (Mak and Tom K would have been enough for me to know who you were talking about)

                And then say it is debatable that they are good guys behind your anonymity in an internet forum?

                I guess you could be saying it is debatable that I know them.


              • Roar Guru

                November 28th 2017 @ 1:15pm
                Train Without A Station said | November 28th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

                It was a joke buddy. Take it easy.

                If either were reading I’d say they’d know it was me based on my response.

                Not that they would be. I doubt Fai reads the Roar and doubt Mak reads…

              • Roar Guru

                November 28th 2017 @ 5:24pm
                jeznez said | November 28th 2017 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

                Need to work on your delivery then

        • November 25th 2017 @ 10:49pm
          Terry Tavita said | November 25th 2017 @ 10:49pm | ! Report

          you never know..a pro team tends to galvanize support esp. if they get off to a winning start..plenty of money in hong kong..the hong kong rugby sevens is huge, been so for decades..there’s a start..

      • November 25th 2017 @ 9:04am
        Bakkies said | November 25th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        The IRB are interested as they need a legacy in Asia after the RWC not just in Japan. With the private investment that has an aim of rolling an Aus Kick style program in the countries the competition is played in it is not going to burn huge holes in their pockets.

    • November 25th 2017 @ 8:49am
      Kevin Higginson said | November 25th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      The main difference between IPRC and SR is that the players will placed in a central pool and shared around the different franchises. This will create extra interest across the region, while the teams will be of a good standard. These players will also help the development of e country’s native players.

    • November 25th 2017 @ 9:33am
      Rujope said | November 25th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      Rugby has been played in Sri Lanka since 1879. one hundred and five clubs and 100,000+ registered players. That is a rugby stronghold.
      Their club competition is televised and available on you tube as well.
      NSW RU was founded in 1874 and has 85,000 registered players.

      • Roar Guru

        November 25th 2017 @ 10:44am
        Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 10:44am | ! Report

        Are the rights to those games sold, or is it something similar to public television?

        I’ve played TV games in Victoria in the past for example – but Dewar Shield is a long way from a commercial product!

    • November 25th 2017 @ 10:18am
      Tim Rogers said | November 25th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

      I really dislike the negative discussion on this concept! The point is if a market in this region is not established now will it ever be established. There are people who are willing to give it ago and invest their own time and money. It smells of me of people in fear of it being more successful than they would originally like. It smells like people see it as a threat.

      As they say Rome was not built in a day – the thing is it has potential and as an old aussie saying goes “you won’t know if you don’t give it a go!”

      • Roar Guru

        November 25th 2017 @ 10:43am
        Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

        Tim I’m not trying to be rude to you, but if you dislike any negative discussion, then don’t read here. No place for disrespectful discussion but just because it’s been proposed, there’s no reason why people should be made to refrain from any critical thinking.

        My skepticism is that Forrest has stated the competition will be self sustaining in 3 years. As long as he is willing dump 8 figures into the competition annually of course it will work in some capacity.

        But when we are talking about essentially moving into new professional rugby markets that have big populations, but populations with huge wealth disparity (rendering many people to little commercial value – viewers aren’t valuable if they don’t have money) and then hoping to be as commercially successful as 2 decade established codes within 3 years, I start to have a lot of doubt.

        New markets are seldom built on their own due to the time involved. Most seem to come from governing body investment as part of a long term investment strategy.

        • November 25th 2017 @ 7:34pm
          ScottD said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:34pm | ! Report

          Yes like the $100m that the Chinese government has announced it will invest into rugby as a first step to making it a rugby powerhouse.
          Actually the IPRC fits pretty well with both World Rugbys stated aim of growing rugby in Asia and the publicity of the 2019 RWC.

          • November 25th 2017 @ 8:36pm
            Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 8:36pm | ! Report

            Do you mean Alibaba?

            Based on what they are talking about, $100M would get sucked up very quick.

            • November 25th 2017 @ 11:05pm
              Terry Tavita said | November 25th 2017 @ 11:05pm | ! Report

              $100 million is a $100 million..$100 million chinese rugby didn’t have yesterday..

          • November 25th 2017 @ 8:37pm
            Train Without A Station said | November 25th 2017 @ 8:37pm | ! Report

            How much are World Rugby committing to it?

      • November 26th 2017 @ 10:11pm
        Chris Hopkins said | November 26th 2017 @ 10:11pm | ! Report

        Sadly most in the east have missed what seprates the great from the mediocre. Instead of stating “Why we can’t do it”, great organisations simply switch two words and ask “Why can’t we do it?”

        • November 27th 2017 @ 9:12am
          Ex force fan said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

          This is the same supporters that do not even attend Superugby games in their own cities criticizing a competition that will directly compete with Superugby with potential to grow into something more exciting than watching your team loose week after week against NZ side and taking the game to new markets. There will always be sceptics with any new rival competition, as it will compete with Superugby, Superugby will need to become better. However as you live in the Eastern States you will see as much IPRC as those in the West will see Superugby. Not much. I hope this competition brings fun back to the game and that its format will make each game as unpredictable as possible.