The national unions that make up the Six Nations rugby union championship are reportedly in advanced talks over a collective rights system that would effectively end plans for the launch of a World League.
UK newspaper The Telegraph said the English, French, Irish, Italian, Scottish, and Welsh unions have discussed pooling the broadcasting rights to all their home fixtures across the year, including the Six Nations and autumn Test series, modelling their system on that employed by football’s English Premier League.
The model would reportedly not include the British and Irish Lions tours, rights to which are historically sold by the host nations in the southern hemisphere, and would not encroach on existing agreements for European club competition the Champions Cup.
Rights to marquee national team games and competitions are currently sold on an individual basis across Europe, and the consolidation of rights is seen as a means to boost value from the current fragmented model. The Telegraph said the new model would be introduced from the 2022 season, after the current six-year UK rights deal for the Six Nations, with public-service broadcaster the BBC and commercial broadcaster ITV, has expired.
One Six Nations source told the newspaper: “The chances of making this plan work are much higher because we already have the structures in place and it would not mean agreeing to new competitions and all the issues associated with player welfare and diminishing the value of the World Cup.”
The formation of a new World League has been the subject of much debate in rugby circles over recent weeks. Earlier this month, Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle gave her backing to the proposed World League plan, stating that the sport’s leading nations need to come together to think of the wider development benefits it could bring.
In what has been touted as a potentially seismic change for the international game, rugby union stakeholders analysed the plans at a meeting in Los Angeles last month. Under the proposals, which have been earmarked for introduction in 2020 or 2021, the World League would see all Test matches awarded points, with the champions of the northern hemisphere facing off against their rivals from the southern hemisphere in an end-of-year final.
The World League would reportedly be composed of those competing in the north’s Six Nations and the south’s Rugby Championship, plus two teams from contenders including Japan, Fiji and the United States.
The Telegraph added that at the Los Angeles meeting it was agreed that any independent rights negotiations that had the potential to derail the project would be suspended until the unions had received the final proposal and made their decision. This position was also said to have been endorsed by World Rugby’s executive committee.