SANZAAR bemoans 'missed opportunity'
REACTION: SANZAAR has expressed disappointment that the proposed World Rugby Nations Championship concept has officially been taken off the table.
World Rugby’s ambitious plans to revolutionise the sport – which the SANZAAR members felt would redefine the international rugby calendar – was ditched on Wednesday, after failing to achieve the unanimous agreement of member countries.
The SANZAAR member Unions – Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – despite having some concerns over elements of what was presented, most notably promotion/relegation, had all signed the Offer Letters to enter into the next phase of due diligence with the aim of working through the concerns with all interested parties.
“The Nations Championship was a golden opportunity to grow the game internationally but is seemingly lost,” SANZAAR Chairman Brent Impey stated.
“SANZAAR remains convinced that such a revamped international calendar is the right course of action supported by professional cross-border competitions such as Super Rugby and the various European premierships.
“All SANZAAR Unions signed the letter of offer with World Rugby to continue negotiations. SANZAAR has been consistent in its support of the concept as we believed that this was an important decision for the future of the world game.
“Furthermore, the ability to have promotion/relegation in both hemispheres as proposed by World Rugby is a principle position with which SANZAAR agreed. That would have created a meaningful pathway and aspirations for emerging nations.
“While World Rugby has led discussions around the Nations Championship concept, SANZAAR and its member unions, have been in constant and positive dialogue with our broadcast partners to secure the future of Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship,” added Impey.
The proposals were backed by a record commercial partnership worth nearly £5 billion (ÜS$6.6 billion) of investment.
However, controversial idea to introduce promotion and relegation to both championships were met with trepidation from unions who would run a huge financial risk if teams were relegated.
“World Rugby can confirm that it has taken the reluctant decision to discontinue plans for the Nations Championship after the required unanimous agreement by unions to enter into exclusive negotiations was not achieved by Wednesday’s deadline,” World Rugby said in a statement.
Alternative arrangements may now be explored in order to help those unions shut out from rugby’s two major annual championships, including the possibility of expanding the World Cup from the current format of 20 teams.
“We remain fully committed to exploring alternative ways to enhance the meaning, value and opportunity of international rugby for the betterment of all unions,” said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont.
“This includes our continued commitment to competition and investment opportunities for emerging nations to increase the competitiveness of the international game with a view to possible Rugby World Cup expansion in 2027,” he added.
* All the SANZAAR statements: