Decision imminent on World Rugby's Nations Championship plan
The 51 members of World Rugby, the international governing body for rugby union, were today discussing plans for the possible introduction of World Rugby’s controversial new Nations Championship, with a deadline for a final decision likely to be set for next month.
The proposal took a step forward last month after Six Nations Ltd, the organiser of the northern hemisphere’s annual national teams rugby union competition, agreed to a process of due diligence.
The unions of England, France, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Italy were given access to commercially sensitive documents to establish the viability of the plan.
The top southern hemisphere unions had already agreed and a decision on the league, which would start from 2022, is expected imminently.
The new competition would involve a top division of 10 teams – the Six Nations teams, plus the Rugby Championship teams of Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – rising to 12 teams at a later date.
Each team would play the others once in a calendar year, either through the Six Nations and Rugby Championship or in summer or autumn test windows, with the top two teams meeting in a showpiece final.
World Rugby has claimed that the Nations Championship would be “underpinned by a record commercial partnership” with Infront, the Switzerland-based international sports marketing company owned by Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group, “guaranteeing almost £5 billion [$6.3 billion] for investment in the sport over an initial 12-year period (of which more than £1.5 billion is guaranteed incremental revenue for the world game).”
However, there remain concerns over various aspects of the concept, including promotion and relegation, while the plan is also vying with at least two rival schemes.
Rival agency IMG has presented a £1.75-billion investment proposal to Six Nations Ltd, known as Project Light, which goes beyond the Six Nations Championship itself to include all of the world’s leading rugby nations, albeit a competition format is yet to be discussed.
A third alternative plan under consideration by the Six Nations unions in which they stand to profit to the tune of more than £100 million each comes from a bid by CVC, the private equity firm, to take a 30-per-cent stake in the championship, meaning the unions would have to surrender their existing full control over the competition.