AP NEWS

Six Nations have ‘huge concerns’ over proposed global league

March 26, 2019

LONDON (AP) — Concerns about the financial impact of relegation could lead to Europe’s top rugby countries rejecting proposals for a new World Rugby Nations Championship.

World Rugby, the sport’s governing body, wants to introduce a global competition featuring 12 countries — initially teams in the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, plus Japan and the United States — that would bring together the two hemispheres and provide greater context to the international game.

However, plans for there to be promotion and relegation from the Nations Championship is giving the teams who currently play in the Six Nations — England, Wales, France, Ireland, Scotland and Italy — “huge concerns,” according to the acting head of England’s Rugby Football Union.

“For us, it could be catastrophic being relegated, commercially,” chief executive Nigel Melville said. “To be relegated, the catastrophe isn’t just the team being relegated, it’s our ability to fund the game as a governing body in England.

“Can we fund the community game in England to the level we do now if we don’t have the revenues we have?”

Because there would be promotion or relegation in years when there is a Rugby World Cup or a British and Irish Lions tour, demoted teams face the prospect of being excluded from the proposed Nations Championship for at least two years.

“It’s not quite up and down, one season on the naughty step and go back up,” Melville said. “It’s actually two years, and that could be a disaster for people.”

The RFU will hold a board meeting about the new tournament on Wednesday before another meeting of the Six Nations unions. A decision must be made in two weeks, and there has to be unanimous support from all teams involved.

World Rugby says it has investment of 5 billion pounds over 12 years to inject into the Nations Championship, while the Six Nations have their own cash source in the shape of a large offer from a private equity firm, CVC Partners.

“We talk about a global window and it makes sense to look at those windows to see if they can be combined,” Melville said. “The narrative makes sense, but there are obvious concerns coming out of the proposal.”

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