Current World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont believes the “spirit of collaboration” the sport has witnessed in response to the coronavirus pandemic will lead to a new international calendar. Rather than a “spirit of collaboration”, I feel it could be a “spirit of desperation”, forced upon a sport not known for dramatic changes, but pushed into a corner due to the economic impact of Covid-19.
While balancing this new vision, Beaumont, must see off a challenge from vice-chairman Agustin Pichot if he is to be re-elected. Beaumont is correct in his view that the ongoing global shutdown of the sport caused by the virus has caused many within the game to rethink their views, but Pichot is pitching himself as that wind of change and could find himself not sitting a second term as a result.
“I’m pretty confident that there will be a variation of the Nations Cup,” Beaumont told BBC Radio on Saturday. The same cup that had a very lukewarm reception from fans 12 months ago and was turned down by nations like Scotland who were concerned about the relegation aspect. Personally, the drive for a Nations Cup, was a World Cup in all but name, every 12 months and was money motivated.
“I think there’s a real spirit of collaboration between the north and the south, looking at what we can do with our playing windows and international windows that can generate more funds in another competition. You have to look at the calendar — the British and Irish Lions tour every four years, the Rugby World Cup every four years,” added Beaumont, himself a former Lions skipper.
Correct Bill, but do the Lions get the time they need to prepare and where have the exciting mid-tour matches all gone? Disappeared into the air, whilst ensuring the main draw is squeezed for TV and hospitality rights. The amateur game is truly dead, and hedge funds are swooping to pick up lucrative deals in a sport that really can’t maintain high spending squads and massive player wages.
Rugby might be forced into accepting major changes due to the financial impact of Covid-19 on the sport. Rugby has already seem massive shocks to the sport with leagues cancelled, and tours suspended.
All Blacks accepted a 50 percent pay freeze on Thursday as New Zealand’s players’ association said it was preparing for the nightmare scenario of no more professional rugby this year. While Rugby Australia alone is forecasting losses of AUS$120 million ($76 million) if their entire season is wiped out.
The way forward?
- Sort out player registrations (10 year residency to qualify, excluding schooling) and allow the Pacific islands to hold onto their best players.
- Increase support for Tier 2 nations and actually get Tier 1 nations to tour those nations.
- The World Cup should be the pinnacle of the sport and the Nations Cup abandoned as a project.
- Allow play offs for the 6 Nations relegation/promotion spot
- Consider reducing the 6 Nations to just 5 again or invite in South Africa
- Ensure the British and Irish Lions place in the sport is protected, if not enhanced with longer tours and preparation time
- Player salary caps to be reduced to ensure clubs can thrive, but allow clubs to bolster players with support for their time after their career.
- International salaries for players and coaches should be reviewed. It should be an honour to represent one’s country, not a lucrative income stream.