Public spat escalates in global season saga
REACTION: European club chiefs insist they are not blocking moves to thrash out a new global calendar season and believe World Rugby has failed to recognise the potential massive losses the Northern Hemisphere game faces without an agreed new structure.
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Mark Robinson has criticised the unwillingness for change from English and French clubs, saying: “We had have hoped that they might come to the table with a little more compromise.”
However, RugbyPass have been told that the Southern Hemisphere unions only discovered the full extent of the work that has been undertaken by the French Top 14 (LNR), Pro14 and England’s Premiership (PRL) clubs at Monday’s virtual meeting involving more than 50 people, including England captain Owen Farrell and ex-All Black Conrad Smith representing the international players.
The French clubs put forward their view of a new global calendar in which the July window for Test matches is retained and the club season runs from September to July. The French plan would also mean the Six Nations is shortened from seven to six weeks and the Champions Cup from nine to eight weeks.
With no agreement at Monday’s meeting, the decision to move the July Test window to October this year is subject to a vote at the World Rugby council on June 30. What frustrated the European clubs at the meeting was “short-termism”, with the main focal point the looming October and November Test window which the major unions want to ensure is played to generate much-needed cash.
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Under the planned Test schedule, England would play a seven-Test programme facing Italy and two Tests in Japan and return to Twickenham for games with New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Australia – travel restrictions permitting.
Champions Cup organisers are confident their quarter-finals and semi-finals will be played in September, with the final going ahead in October prior to the Test window.
The French and English clubs do not believe World Rugby fully understood that “hundreds of millions of pounds of revenue” was at stake for them under proposed changes to the global game, with that figure dwarfing the combined losses the major unions are facing from the pandemic lockdown.
A leading European source told RugbyPass: “To be told that we need to make decisions about the future of the sport in the next four to six weeks when there is so much work that needs to be undertaken is difficult to comprehend.
“World Rugby should have admitted in their statement after the meeting that there were gaps in their knowledge about the impact the proposed changes would have on a large segment of the game. Therefore, we need an urgent review of the impact on revenue, fans and the sport that this will have for the club game in the northern hemisphere.
“There was a serious and in-depth sharing of information – mainly by the French clubs – during the meeting and that has caused everyone to think and ask for reports to enable everyone making these major decisions to have a balanced view.
“Everyone will need to compromise and to be honest there needs to be a complete governance shift by World Rugby with the club game allowed to govern itself. The southern hemisphere just talked about getting international games played this year.”
By Chris Jones, RugbyPass