World Rugby clarifies Nations League plans

07 Mar 2019

By: Sport Industry Group

World Rugby has released a statement in an effort to clarify the organisation’s position on the merits and structure of the proposed new Nations League.

It follows criticism of proposals for the new annual global competition from a number of stakeholder groups within the game.

Opposition was led by the International Rugby Players (IRP) council, which issued a statement as the news broke last week, expressing concern over the impact of the changes on player welfare.

Other issues raised included the perceived exclusion of the Pacific Island unions from the new structure.

Ahead of crucial meetings next week, World Rugby has moved to clarify elements of the proposals.

In particular, the organisation stresses that the promotion and relegation model would give the Pacific Islands and all teams outside the current Six Nations and The Rugby Championship a potential pathway to the competition.

However, the statement includes the acknowledgement that, “with the proposed model incorporating competitions that are not owned or run by World Rugby, not all unions are presently in favour of immediate promotion and relegation.”

On the issue of player welfare, which World Rugby describes as “fundamental to our sport,” the statement clarifies that “players would play a maximum of 13 matches if their team reaches the final, compared to an average of between 12 and 14 test matches presently. Most teams would play 11 matches.”

World Rugby also points to the commercial benefits of the Nations League for the benefit of the wider game, explaining: “under the proposed competition, media rights would be combined, enabling greater consistency and overall value.

“Strong interest from media entities has indicated that the model would boost annual media revenue for international rugby and unions, for reinvestment in the game, by a substantial amount.”

The statement concludes: “Change is always difficult, and nobody expected complex multi-stakeholder discussions to be simple, however for a sport to grow and thrive, it must explore ways to innovate and evolve.”

Next week will see a joint meeting of the World Rugby Executive Committee and Professional Game Committee together with Union Chairmen and CEOs and player representatives in Dublin.