All Blacks legend wants 'club window' to widen rugby's appeal
SPOTLIGHT: Former New Zealand captain and board member of Welsh region the Scarlets Sean Fitzpatrick said a club window is needed to make rugby an “attractive product”.
The sixth round of this coming season’s newly-created United Rugby Championship, a 16-team league with sides from Italy, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and Wales will take place on the same weekend, October 29-31, as those countries apart from the Springboks play a Test match.
The French Top 14 clashes with three France internationals over the campaign with the English Premiership being played at the same time as five England games.
“One thing we’ve learnt through Covid is rugby in this part of the world isn’t sustainable,” 58-year-old Fitzpatrick told The Times.
“It has to change. What we are seeing globally is that the international game is OK, but we need competitions other than international rugby that generate income.
“We need to make sure we have a club window with no international games at all, which is going to involve playing fewer internationals.
“Until we get a club window where we can get all our internationals on the field it’s not an attractive product,” he added.
Fitzpatrick won the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 and supports the idea of a domestic equivalent.
“I think the competitions might change in the long run.” Fitzpatrick said.
“There will definitely be a world club competition. We don’t necessarily need to have a world club championship every year, but we need to put a 20-year plan in place and ask ‘What is on the calendar for the next 20 years?’,” he added.
Private equity firms have invested in the All Blacks as well as competitions such as the Six Nations in recent years and Fitzpatrick backed them to evolve the sport.
“Silver Lake and CVC will want to engage a far younger audience. I love all sport, but the key for me is the content,” he said.
“The way sport is consumed and the way we engage with content is different than before.
“Silver Lake and CVC have the expertise to tap into the digital side of the sport to create a fanbase which is going to make the product better. They also know how to monetise the brand.”