Australia should have a clear idea of what Super Rugby will look like beyond 2020 by the end of this year, players’ boss Ross Xenos says.
A new collective bargaining agreement was announced on Wednesday, running until the end of the current broadcast deal in 2020, a timeline that opens the door for the next agreement to be negotiated with a whole new competition in mind.
Even with the axing of the Force last year, the image of Australia’s elite domestic competition is unclear beyond the next deal, with broadcasters also likely to have a big say in what comes next.
RUPA has long advocated for a trans-Tasman competition, that would exclude South Africa, while versions of Super Rugby that would potentially combine Andrew Forrest’s proposed Indo Pacific Rugby Championship and the NRC have not been ruled out.
With rugby more than halfway through the current broadcast deal, Xenos said beginning to look beyond the next agreement needed to happen immediately.
“A key consideration for all parties was it was really hard to agree a CBA that went beyond the current broadcast deal, not just because we're uncertain what the revenue might be but we're actually uncertain what the structure of the competition might be,” he said.
“The number one issue for all professional game stakeholders to resolve in the next 12 months is what the best competition structure is for rugby in Australia post-2020.
“That's going to be a big hard conversation to have and that will naturally then flow into what the next version of the CBA looks like after that as well.”
Xenos said he hoped Australian rugby would have a united view on the best competition in 2021 by the end of 2018.
“The indication that we've got out of SANZAAR and Rugby Australia is competition reforms and broadcast deals aren't negotiated rapidly, they're likely to start that process, if not at the back end of this year, the beginning of next year and I think Australian rugby needs to have a consensus view on what competition model we are actually pushing for.
“I think if you look back at the past experience, and I don't mean to reopen old wounds but clearly the 18-team competition wasn't optimal, but also there was a real lack of consensus as the ARU at the time pursued tat competition model from the rest of the member unions.
“I think it's really important that the member unions actually get together in 2018 and agree even the principles around what kind of competition model we should be pursuing for rugby in Australia in 2021.”
Outgoing Rugby AU CEO Bill Pulver said the cutoff wasn’t made with a future competition in made, but admitted it would make Super Rugby changes easier beyond 2020.
“Don't interpret that as anything other than being aligned with the broadcast agreement,” he said.
“Bear in mind, broadcast revenue is 52 per cent of the game's total revenue roughly.
“The players are a shareholder in the game, they get 29 per cent of the gross player revenue.
“It's important we negotiate collective bargaining agreements in the context of that broadcast period.”