How promotion-relegation would reinvigorate Super Rugby

Gavin Cohen Roar Rookie

By Gavin Cohen, Gavin Cohen is a Roar Rookie


49 Have your say

    The Pro 14 conference system is better than the Super Rugby model, so should SANZAAR adopt promotion and relegation?

    I would adopt a Super Rugby competition of 20 teams, split into ten premier teams and ten first-division teams.

    In the premier league you could guarantee at least two teams from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, as well as one from Argentina. The other 13 can come from anywhere.

    Each team in the premiership would plays each other twice, making 18 games in total – two more than currently played. We’d skip the quarters and just have a semi-final and a final, with cities bidding to host the biggest game of the year.

    This has a team playing a maximum of 20 games, which is only one more than at present.

    A slightly different scoring system would also be adopted, forcing home teams to earn their points a little harder, while also rewarding away teams that come really close.

    • A home win would be worth three points.
    • An away  win would be worth four.
    • A draw would be worth two points for the away team.
    • Losing teams finishing within seven points would get a bonus point.
    • If a home team draws or loses by any margin, they get nothing – they must win to get points.
    • A home team winning by three tries or more would get a bonus point, if not the bonus point goes to the away team. So the try bonus-point is mandatory – one of the teams will be awarded this point. The away team need not win by three tries, they just need not lose by three tries or more to earn the point.

    With regards to relegation and promotion, since my idea involves guaranteeing at least two from the big nations and one from Argentina, if any of these teams find themselves in the relegation zone, they would have to playoff against their own country’s top first division team.

    The bottom team would be relegated, with no playoff, while the top team in the first division would be promoted – this is guaranteed.

    Eighth and ninth place in the premiership would go into the playoffs, joined by the second and third teams in the first division. Games would be held over a 15-day period around the same weekends as the finals, with each of the four teams playing at the same stadium – not the same as the final, but another hosted city. Each team would play each other once.

    Each Saturday at the same venue you would get a double header, with the top two teams then proceeding to the premiership and the bottom two going to the first division.

    To accommodate 20 teams, they would need to play Thursday through Sunday, with a game on each day, leaving the premier league games to Saturday – have one Thursday game, two on Friday, five on Saturday, and two on Sunday.

    To the issue of depth, there is no reason why New Zealand, Australia or South Africa cannot have seven teams. The Pacific Islands could have two, the Argentinians could also have two.

    Playing-wise, anyone could play for anyone, so a draft pick system and a transfer window would be excellent.

    The AFL draft is great way to start. The new five teams could pick two players each to start with, however first teams would be allowed to pick their own countrymen – so the Lions, Stormers, Sharks and Bulls would have first crack at a South African player, then if no team wants them, they then get offered to other nations’ teams. The order of pick would be based on the table at the end of the last season.

    With regards to money, the only way that first division sides would last is if they had their share of the revenue from, meaning every one of the ten games per week must be shown on TV.

    Ultimately, this would see more games, with games being spread over four days of the week instead of just two, teams could manage their players better – ending the need for any to be rested – and if teams have to travel, they could play a Thursday game prior to travel and play their first game the following Saturday or Sunday, giving them more time to prepare.

    Feel free to criticise and or compliment, as I am interested in additional ideas to reinvigorate the current, boring system.

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    The Crowd Says (49)

    • July 25th 2018 @ 10:15am
      Ron49 said | July 25th 2018 @ 10:15am | ! Report

      Ignores the reality that on present form, four NZ teams should be in the elite group, not two. Otherwise, it does nothing to correct the gerrymander that exists. Any change must acknowledge NZ’s strength, compared to the rest, for there to be any improvement. Back to the drawing board, please.

      • Roar Rookie

        July 25th 2018 @ 12:00pm
        Dave_S said | July 25th 2018 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

        Why does the system have to account for NZs strength? It’s not a parliamentary system.

        To my mind the short and medium term priorities are to get as many players and fans (and hence dollars) into the comp as possible, especially as rugby in this part of the world has to compete against the raiders from NH rugby and NRL.

        I get your point that NZ could probably field enough competitive teams to fill half the top league, but they would be counter-productive even for NZ rugby.

        NZ fans will have to live with the fact that most of the SR dollars will come from outside NZ, hence those non-NZ fans will also have to be accommodated too.

        • July 25th 2018 @ 2:21pm
          Jacko said | July 25th 2018 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

          Dave Ibelieve even the Blues would be in a top 10 if it was a round robin comp rather than the BS we have now where the Blues play all other NZ sides twice. so 5 of the top 10 could well be NZ sides…Now how is this counter-productive for NZ rugby?

          • July 25th 2018 @ 2:29pm
            Gus said | July 25th 2018 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

            Because we wouldnt be getting as much SA dollars which is the only thing keeping super rugby afloat at the moment.

            • July 26th 2018 @ 12:56pm
              P2R2 said | July 26th 2018 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

              SA dollars or SA Rands….at .11c NZ it is rubbish

          • Roar Guru

            July 28th 2018 @ 12:57pm
            taylorman said | July 28th 2018 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

            …we’re now ‘even the Blues…’… a burden on society, a relic…sad but true…🙄

      • Roar Rookie

        July 25th 2018 @ 3:19pm
        Gavin Cohen said | July 25th 2018 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

        @Ron49 I am not saying it must have two NZ teams, I am simply suggesting that it should have a MINIMUM of two, ie it can have five, but it allows for the top tier to be representitive of all core nations

      • Roar Guru

        July 25th 2018 @ 7:23pm
        Kashmir Pete said | July 25th 2018 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

        Ron you are a Dumpkoff

        10 premier teams, minus 2 guaranteed SA teams, minus 2 guaranteed OZ teams, minus 1 guaranteed Argentinian team, leaves 5 open spots. Crusaders + Hurricanes + Chiefs + Highlanders + Auckland Blues = 5 teams.


        • July 25th 2018 @ 7:40pm
          AndyS said | July 25th 2018 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

          …to presumably leave something like 4 Australian teams, 2 SA teams, 1 Argentinean team, 1 NZ team and 2 Japanese teams in the second division.

          So the top division teams can split 1/3 of the Australian broadcasting contract, half the SA, half the Argentinean and 5/6 of the NZ deals, while the second division can split the other half of the SA and Arg deals, 2/3 of the Australian and all the Japanese contribution. Sounds like a plan for the future… 😉

    • July 25th 2018 @ 11:07am
      Ex force fan said | July 25th 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report

      Why guarantee any team a place. Let merit decide.

      • July 26th 2018 @ 12:58pm
        P2R2 said | July 26th 2018 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

        that means on merit x4 NZ teams….x1 AUS and maybe x2 SA…on merit as you say

    • July 25th 2018 @ 11:27am
      Cole said | July 25th 2018 @ 11:27am | ! Report

      I like your idea of away wins being worth more than home wins.

      The real problem appears to be in the current format that conference winners get a home final regardless of competition points. Hopefully SANZAAR continue to tweak with this finals format so that it is fairer.

      The problem with relegation is money, sponsors and retaining players. Eg. It would be doubtful that Izzy Folua would stick around in SR if the Tahs got relegated to 2nd division and you might find an exodus of players to Europe in a larger scale if half of the Oz teams were in the lower division(which would be likely).

      I like the idea of players being able to play for all SR teams regardless of nationality but you would want a cap on that, otherwise teams would lose their local flavour and we might have more issues come international eligibity etc which would also have to be addressed.

      Interesting thoughts all the same, thanks for the article.

      • Roar Rookie

        July 25th 2018 @ 3:20pm
        Gavin Cohen said | July 25th 2018 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

        @Cole, only a pleasure mate, I agree on capping the foreigners and sticking with local flavour!!

    • Roar Guru

      July 25th 2018 @ 11:58am
      Derm McCrum said | July 25th 2018 @ 11:58am | ! Report

      Don’t understand the reference to PRO14 – this is nothing like it.

      • Roar Rookie

        July 25th 2018 @ 3:35pm
        yasserwallaby said | July 25th 2018 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

        I think he meant French top 14, not the guinness pro 14. The French comp had 2 divisions.

        • July 26th 2018 @ 9:47am
          Working Class Rugger said | July 26th 2018 @ 9:47am | ! Report

          The French system has four divisions of pro/semi-pro Rugby.

    • July 25th 2018 @ 12:20pm
      Old Bugger said | July 25th 2018 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

      Already, we are hearing that players are suffering injuries because of too much rugby, being played. If a case to diminish a rugby season and allow players sufficient time to recover before the international season begins, then the next SR broadcast contract IMO, should lead the way because it really is, a simple outcome.

      Based upon the current 15 teams, SR could play a round-robin of every team playing each other plus a bye for each side. The top finishing 8 teams will then go into the finals including QF’s, SF’s and a GF. In total that equates to approx 18weeks of SR rugby.

      If the series begins say 16Feb 2019, then by my calculations, the GF will be played on 15June. That, then allows each RC national team either 2 or 3weeks of preparing for their respective NH visitors, to start the July 3-test series on either 6Jul or 13July. Preferably, coaches may want the July tests to begin 6July to complete on 20Jul and provide an extra week of rest for the players, before commencing the RC test series on 3Aug.

      Since next year is RWC year, then the RC series will be shortened to a single test between each team held in August and all teams, heading off to Japan for the RWC, in September.

      However, during the non-RWC years, the RC competition will have each team playing against each other twice with 2weeks rest, between matches. A 3Aug start, will see the competition complete somewhere around 12Oct with each RC side having a couple of weeks, before jetting off on their EOY tour, in November.

      I accept that injuries etc are part and parcel of this sport. However, the national boards and WR IMO, have a duty of care responsibility towards their players and to do so, would require some out-of-the-box thinking rather than, bottom-line financial thinking.

      Notwithstanding the above, is there a possibility, that players might engage themselves to a season that offers more recovery time, potentially less rugby and probably a lesser salary than what they could possibly earn, up north?? I dunno but atm, the almighty dollar IMO, is causing a few players to either suffer burn-out or season ending injuries, which were simply unheard of, a decade ago.

      Something has to be done…….

    • July 25th 2018 @ 2:08pm
      Unanimous said | July 25th 2018 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

      Divisions only work well when newly promoted teams are competitive enough. This is generally the case in low level amateur leagues, and at any level in soccer. It works at a high level in soccer because it is a low scoring sport and luck plays a large part in any one match. Over a season, even a ten million dollar team can get a few wins against 100 million dollar teams. About 1 in 50 seasons the low level team even flukes the whole championship. That’s not the case in rugby, nor at the top level of any sport other than soccer.

      The English Rugby Premiership has a few teams switching around between the bottom of the Premiership and the top of the Championship (Bristol, London Irish, Worcester). The RFU subsidises teams in the Championship (they can earn very little in the Championship otherwise), but not enough to be very competitive in the Premiership. The three teams mentioned have a bit of funding of their own, due to some time spent in the Premiership. London Welsh was another team in that group, but they went bankrupt trying to get back into the Premiership. The Premiership is a stand alone organisation in England – it is not part of the RFU. The Championship is run separately by the RFU.

      The French system works a bit better. The top two divisions are run by the same league organisation and second division teams get a share of overall league revenue. This is workable because the Pro D2 is on TV, and attendances are in the vicinity of 5,000 per game. There is a great deal of parochialism and rivalry going back 100 years in the south of France, and this enables enough financial return to keep a reasonable standard second division running.

      Your top division would use up at least $150 million per year if it is to retain enough top players to be on a level with the Premiership and French leagues. Your second division would need at least $50 million per year to fund if it is to provide teams to the top division that don’t just get relegated straight back. Repeated and immediate relegation results in the second division losing status and interest, and makes it pointless. Probably more like $70 million would be required to run it well enough.

      How many people would watch a second division? Given the lack of rivalry between recent poor performing teams and some new teams, I reckon you’d be lucky to get 1/5th of the audience and crowds as the first division. More likely 1/10th, which is in line with the Championship as a percentage of the Premiership. It’s not going to be 1/3rd like in France.

      $50 million is a big subsidy to carry, and the SANZAAR countries aren’t flush with cash. It’s a non-starter financially. Super Rugby as a whole is heavily subsidised as a development tool for national teams, which in SANZAAR is what makes the money. Super Rugby is not run for profit, which is why it is the hodgepodge thing that it is.

      If you want to run Super Rugby for profit, there are plenty of examples showing what is needed for a sport that is higher scoring than soccer. Divisions isn’t one of the things needed. A free player market and salary controls are needed. Financially, the market is maximised if each team starts the season with a genuine chance to become the champion, and this is not consistent with soccer style divisions.

      You can have conferences, or a round robin type league. You can modify a round robin league to manage travel or fit the season to the length you want – not everyone needs to play everyone else exactly the same amount of times, nor have exactly the same amount of home and away games. Just go as close to round robin as is practical given the teams, geography, and season length. This is what the AFL and NRL does.

      If you do have to have conferences with position in the conference determining finals positions, it is essential that the conferences are roughly equal in standard. This means either determining conferences by seeding (like the World Cup, Pro14, and similar) or strong equalisation measures applied to the teams such as salary cap. If you use seeding, you forgo any travel management advantages that conferences might be able to give you, and in fact can end up with horrific travel situations.

      The main things that are required are a freer player market (maybe restrict some national players to stay within the relevant country), salary controls and revenue shares to even the competition. If the conferences were equal, the current conference system wouldn’t look so bad. You also wouldn’t need to give special places to conference winners because they’d be legitimately qualifying anyway.