Rugby

John O’Connor Disappointed With The Lack Of Consensus Amongst Unions

O’Connor says the scrapping of the competition was a missed opportunity for Fiji in many respects.
22 Jun 2019 14:58
John O’Connor Disappointed With The Lack Of Consensus Amongst Unions
FIji Rugby Union CEO John O'Connor.

The Fiji Rugby Union’s chief executive officer John O’Connor is disappointed World Rugby had to abandon plans for a Nations Championships because of lack of consensus among unions.

World Rugby needed to get approval from 10 unions from the Southern and Northern hemisphere nations, but failed to do so.

O’Connor says the scrapping of the competition was a missed opportunity for Fiji in many respects.

First, it would have provided more opportunities for the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians to play regularly against tier-1 nations.

Second, participating in the Nations Championship would have generated extra broadcast revenue for FRU which would have been crucial for a cash-strapped nation like Fiji.

“It was disappointing to get the message but we are looking forward to World Rugby creating other pathways for tier-2 teams to play against tier-1 nations regularly,” O’Connor said.

“The Nations League had the backing of the FRU and most other unions but there were some that didn’t back it.”

World Rugby, on its website, said the decision to discontinue the plans was due to a lack of “unanimous agreement among unions.”

It said that the concept was supported by a 12-year £6.1 million ($FJ14.82m) guarantee from leading sports marketing agency Infront Sports & Media, backed by Hong Kong-based parent company Wanda Sports.

“Despite strong progress in collaboration with unions, competition owners and International Rugby Players, including full engagement on the detailed process of financial due diligence, a lack of consensus on key issues, particularly the timing and format of promotion and relegation, left World Rugby with no alternative but to discontinue the project,” it said.

The Nations Championships would have included 12 top division teams from both hemispheres facing-off once in a calendar year.

The top two teams at the end of the competition would meet in a grand final.

There was also a concept of promotion/relegation proposed, which turned out to be a major sticking point among some European nations.

REACTIONS

In the aftermath of World Rugby’s announcement, New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey also expressed his disappointment at the decision, saying “a golden opportunity to grow the game internationally”.

NZ Rugby’s CEO Steve Tew has also told NZ media he was disappointed, but not surprised, at the decision.

His Rugby Australia counterpart, Raelene Castle, said SANZAAR could now look at expanding the existing Rugby Championship to beyond its current four-team structure.

“Certainly what World Rugby Nations Championship has done with this project is allow us to think outside the box about different things, around the calendar, the timing, inclusion of different teams, all of those things,” she told RugbyPass.

“It’s allowed the SANZAAR nations to think about the expansion of the Rugby Championship, how does that work from a team participation point of view, a commercial sustainability point of view, how does it work to grow the reach of the Rugby Championship, and one of the options is the expansion of the Rugby Championship but no final decision has been made.”

Edited by Osea Bola

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