Martin Anayi: The real reason why SA sides joined URC
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: As the inaugural season of the United Rugby Championship heads towards its conclusion, South African sides have become more prominent.
The decision of the four South African teams – Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers – to swap SANZAAR’s Super Rugby for the revamped European competition, the URC, was accompanied by loads of negativity from the nay-sayers.
And to some extent, there are still doubters questioning the longevity of the Trans-hemisphere competition.
However, the South African quartet has proven its worth.
Not only have they produced incredible results on the field, with the Stormers leading the pack (first in the SA conference and second on the overall URC log), but they have also been a valuable financial asset for the league.
Speaking to reporters during a round table media debrief, URC CEO Martin Anayi admitted that with twice as many SA sides, the financial income has increased.
The URC this past week revealed that the Stormers and Sharks are amongst the top five teams for the most cumulative audience.
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“It is materially higher than it was,” Anayi said in regards to the SA side’s participation fee.
“We have contracts with TV broadcasters and sponsors in South Africa, so it is slightly different.
“Before it was pretty much guaranteed from the unions but now, we have back to back contracts and it’s much higher.”
While the financial income is certainly a major benefit, Anayi is adamant money was not the driving force for the SA sides to move from the South to the North.
“We did not do it for the money. We knew the four teams coming in will add to the competition,” he said, adding: “We knew they will add [additional value] to the competition and not just participate in it.
“They are an integral part and I think we see it now with the Stormers being second on the table and playing Leinster this weekend.
“The Sharks are fourth and the Bulls are up to eight – so it’s not just about the money.
“Even though that has increased considerably, it’s more about the quality of the teams that comes with it.”