World Rugby has said that it will enter into talks with rights-holding broadcasters after two group-stage matches at the Rugby World Cup in Japan were cancelled given the threat posed by Typhoon Hagibis.
The world governing body held a press conference today (Thursday), at which they announced the cancellation of Saturday’s Pool B New Zealand-Italy fixture in Toyota and the Pool C England-France match in Tokyo. Sunday’s matches, including the highly-anticipated clash between hosts Japan and Scotland in Yokohama, will only go ahead pending successful safety reviews after the typhoon has passed through host venues.
Asked about any possible compensation to broadcasters, who will be hit loss of advertising revenues, tournament director Alan Gilpin said: “Those are not conversations we’ve begun yet with our broadcast partners.
“We’re very fortunate to have a very loyal and strong set of partners who’ve been with us for many Rugby World Cups.
“We’ll have some appropriate and sensible conversations with them about what the impacts of these decisions have been for them.”
The live and delayed rights-holding broadcasters in the competing countries affected by matches cancelled thus far are: Spark and TVNZ in New Zealand; Rai in Italy; ITV in the UK; and TF1 in France.
The England-France clash was sure to have registered strong audiences in both countries.
TF1 attracted its highest audience of the tournament last weekend as the free-to-air commercial broadcaster pulled in an average of 5.2 million viewers (and a 54.4-per-cent market share). England’s win over Argentina registered an audience of 3.2 million (and a 46-per-cent share).
Viewing figures in Japan are expected to be broken in Japan if the hosts’ match against Scotland goes ahead. The Brave Blossoms’ win over Samoa netted a 46.1-per-cent share on NTV and Japan’s highest live audience of the year.
World Rugby generated a total of £140m (€153.1m/$168.9m) from media rights income at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The IMG agency works with Rugby World Cup Limited on its sale of broadcast rights worldwide. During the sales process agreed upon by RWCL and IMG, the agency negotiated with local broadcasters and drafted licensed media agreements. RWCL remained the signatory to all deals.
World Rugby has specified that all ticket holders for cancelled matches will be provided with a refund.
Asked about the potential economic impact of the cancelled fixtures, Gilpin said: “Our focus has been putting safety first and concentrating on the contingency plans we were looking at and if we could deliver these games safely and consistently…
“…we’ll of course now get into discussions around the economic impact of that and where the insurance providers that we work with will become part of those conversations.”
The governing body has decided that, given it cannot safely put contingency plans in place for all games that are under threat from Typhoon Hagibis, it would not be fair to turn to a contingency plan for one game alone.
Under tournament regulations, all cancelled games are registered as 0-0 draws and both sides are awarded two points each.
Gilpin said that World Rugby had looked at “any available contingency options”, but that there were venues already used in the tournament, such as Sapporo, that “we no longer have available to us”.
He added: “When you look at the scale and breadth of this potential typhoon then there are very few of the venues we’ve used that would have been available to us on Saturday as contingency.”