Why the planned global calendar could backfire
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Stakeholders across rugby meet on Monday as the first steps towards revising the sport’s calendar are made, while a senior figure in the French game has warned against too much change.
In May, World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said plans to align fixtures in the northern and southern hemispheres were underway.
But the president of the French League, who run the lucrative Top 14 and second-tier ProD2, Paul Goze said his clubs want to keep the current structure of a season running from late-summer to end of spring in Europe.
Reports claim the domestic season in the north could be cut to six months as well as running from the start of the calendar year to November.
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“It’s out of the question. I would like to know what it adds. Nothing. Just difficulties and problems,” he told AFP.
“If we start in January, we would play throughout the summer with problems including ticket sales, television, sponsors and player safety. We would be competing against big global sporting events.
“It’s an evolution not a revolution,” he added.
The financially powerful French league is set to be supported by their English counterparts in the Premiership but are likely to face a stiff challenge from the Test game and domestic sides in the southern hemisphere.
“If we don’t do it now we’re never going to do it,” New Zealander Warren Gatland, who will coach the British and Irish Lions next year, told the BBC last week.
“A lot of this has been talked about for a long time. It’s not going to be perfect for everyone. People have got to compromise a bit,” he added.
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Next season’s Lions tour to South Africa could be moved to a later period in the year from it’s current July slot and now also clashes with the re-scheduled Tokyo Olympics.
“I think with the Lions it’s just being a little bit flexible,” former Wales coach Gatland said.
“If we’ve got to go back a month or so I think we can cope with that if it’s the best decision for World Rugby in terms of a global season.”
One proposition Goze’s Top 14, who have the world’s highest salary cap as well as wealthiest television contract, backs is for a Club World Cup held every four years starting in April 2022 with eight teams each from each hemisphere.
Beaumont is keen to introduce a similar competition for countries despite plans for a Nations Championship being shelved last June.
Goze said the 2023 World Cup set to be held in France would be under threat if the campaign was changed.
“How do you want to do a season between January and June, in a World Cup year, that teams have enough time to prepare? With a Six Nations in the middle?” he said.
“In our project, no-one will be excluded. Everyone has to make an effort but everyone’s desire must be respected,” he added.