World Rugby reveal $9 billion windfall for Nations Championship

by Iain Payten and wires

Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle says the Nations Championships has potential for "significant commercial benefit for Australia" after it was revealed the annual global tournament could earn the sport $A9.3 billion over 12 years.

World Rugby outlined the financial windfall for the proposed Nations Championships at meetings in Dublin on Wednesday night, which featured the bosses of tier one nations, Japan and Fiji, and also players association representatives.

Rugby chiefs want to launch a new cross-hemisphere contest in 2022, in which the winners of the Six Nations would face off against the top team from an expanded, six-team Rugby Championship in an end of year final. 

The Dublin meeting was called in response 'misleading' information about the proposed tournament having been leaked recently.

There was no agreement struck and World Rugby hope to have a final answer in May at their next scheduled meeting.

Plans include a three-division format and a system of promotion and relegation, which would be backed by a record commercial partnership with sports market company Infront guaranteeing nearly $9.3 billion for investment in the game over an initial 12-year period.

World Rugby said the $A9.3b investment over 12 years covered both media and marketing rights but did not include any sale of equity in the competition and therefore full control of the competition and its revenue redistribution model would be retained by the unions, the current major competitions and World Rugby.

It's unclear how much extra revenue that would mean for individual nations - it is believed Australia could add $A18 million a year - but the 5 billion pound figure was seen as a counter to a recent $A374m bid for partial ownership of the Six Nations made by private equity group CVC.

Six Nations bosses are understood to be opposed to the idea of promotion and relegation, which underpins the Nations Championship concept.

The revised plans set out by World Rugby also scrapped the semi-final stage of the proposed finals in November, reducing workload by one Test. All nations will play 11 Tests a year, with a maximum of 12.

France is reportedly open to the Nations Championship, however, and Southern Hemisphere nations are largely supportive.

“The proposal put forward by World Rugby for the Nations Championship has the potential to deliver a great product for fans and significant commercial benefit for Australia and the game globally, including opportunities for emerging nations," Castle said in a statement.

“We commend World Rugby on the work they have done in developing a strong proposal and we remain committed to working towards an outcome that can tick each of those boxes.

“These are exciting but complex discussions which require us to strike a balance between doing what’s best for fans, Australian Rugby as well as the global game, and the players.

“We will now continue the conversation with our member unions and RUPA before reverting back to World Rugby on our position ahead of the next round of discussions.”

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: "There was strong recognition that World Rugby's Nations Championship proposal, based on a true pathway for all, has been developed with great care, extensive evaluation and with the global game at the forefront of our thinking.

"We are encouraged that the format revisions and robust financial model has been well received.

"Everyone, not just the established teams, will benefit, accelerating the development and competitiveness of the global game.

"However, as you would expect in an ambitious, complex and multi-stakeholder project, not everyone is in full agreement on the way forward, including the matter of promotion and relegation, but we will continue to engage and consult."

In Sports are a Switzerland-based sports marketing agency who are involved with the FIFA World Cup, Olympic winter sports federations, European football and Chinese basketball, among other things.

"Our support will enable World Rugby and its member unions around the globe to elevate the game further whilst also providing long-term financial security, across all regions and levels," Dr. Christian Mueller, Vice President of Strategy & Business Development at Infront said in a statement. 

"We know how passionate rugby fans are and we want to ensure accessibility for fans globally, supporting World Rugby's vision to continue making the game a sport for all. It is in our interests to grow the audience to ensure it is an attractive proposition for both media and sponsors."