World Rugby abandon controversial Nations Champiosnhip 1 year ago

World Rugby abandon controversial Nations Champiosnhip

World Rugby have abandoned their plans to introduce a two conference league that would run in two of the four years within a Rugby World Cup cycle.

The sport's governing body proposed the Nations Championship, a competition that would see teams split into two conferences of 12 teams each with promotion and relegation also included.

The Six Nations teams would start in Division 1 of one conference while the Rugby Championship teams, plus Japan and Fiji, would be placed in the other Division 1 in the opposite conference with each team playing 11 regular season matches per year.

A host of internationals - including Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell - opposed the competition citing player welfare while World Rugby cited the financial potential that the format could have generated.

A World Rugby statement read:

World Rugby can confirm that that it has taken the reluctant decision to discontinue plans for the Nations Championship after the required unanimous agreement by unions to enter into exclusive negotiations was not achieved by Wednesday’s deadline. 

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. 

The core objective of the Nations Championship was to secure a strong and sustainable financial and competition model for unions, provide for the first time a meaningful competition pathway for all emerging nations, further inject excitement into the international game for fans and broadcasters and develop new markets for the betterment of all.

The concept was underpinned by a game-changing 12-year £6.1 billion guarantee from leading sports marketing agency Infront Sports & Media, backed by Hong Kong-based parent company Wanda Sports. Importantly, ownership of the competition would have been retained by the unions and competition owners without any sale of equity. Infront Sports and Media and Wanda Sports remain fully committed to World Rugby's objectives. 

Throughout extensive consultation with unions and the international game’s major stakeholders, World Rugby has demonstrated flexibility and made every effort to provide solutions and reassurance on key areas including the format of the second division, the financial package for relegated teams and key player welfare considerations.