Plans to shift the Six Nations’s traditional slot by a month to March and April and play the Rugby Championship in the same window as part of a synchronised global calendar have moved a step closer following an unprecedented joint announcement by the respective tournament organisers.
Both the Six Nations and Sanzaar, who run the Rugby Championship, have committed to further discussions in the coming weeks, amid increasing optimism that a joint accord could be rubber-stamped by early July. It comes just weeks after the chairman of World Rugby, Bill Beaumont, indicated the Six Nations would not be
budging from its customary February-March position.
The Covid-19 pandemic, however, has concentrated plenty of minds and reinforced the importance to all of a “clear and coherent” rugby calendar. The statement also highlighted the need “to eliminate self-interest and recognise that the international and club game have shared mutual benefits that if approached and managed correctly can enable both to flourish”.
Among the primary objectives is to reduce overlaps between club and international fixtures, improve player welfare and create more commercially attractive competitions. For the first time there is also public recognition that the lack of shared purpose between the northern and southern hemispheres “has held the game back for many years” and that it is now time to “restore public faith in the core values of rugby”.
Precise details regarding this autumn’s fixture schedule also remain under discussion, with the Premiership in England still unable to say when the league will be able to resume. The Pro14, meanwhile, has confirmed the sale of a 28% stake in its league to the private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, who have already entered into a partnership with the Premiership.
The latest deal is believed to involve around £120m of extra investment which will benefit the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Italian Rugby Unions, the latter having now become a shareholder. The unions will retain a 72% majority share in the tournament, with the chief executive, Martin Anayi, continuing in his role. “CVC’s show of faith has been impressive and is in keeping with their proven track record of success when it comes to sports investment,” insisted Anayi. “This partnership allows all of our stakeholders to plan for a sustainable period of growth, which will benefit the fans, the players and the game.
“We have been clear that we believe the Guinness Pro14 is a world-class club league that is still in its growth phase. We are confident that it will become a major standard bearer in our sport.”