(Reuters) – World Rugby’s proposed global league will guarantee billions of pounds in investment while a revised schedule would address player welfare concerns, the sport’s governing body said after meeting major stakeholders in Dublin on Thursday.
The governing body said the proposed Nations Championship could be supported by a partnership with Swiss-based sports marketing firm Infront, guaranteeing nearly 5 billion pounds over an initial 12-year period.
Under revisions to the original tournament plan presented to unions in September, the semi-final stage has been removed with players set to feature in 11 matches and a maximum of 12 if their team makes the final.
“We’re encouraged that the format revisions and robust financial model has been well received,” World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement.
“Everyone, not just the established teams, will benefit, accelerating the development and competitiveness of the global game,” the former England captain added.
World Rugby’s business plans follow reports in the British media that the Six Nations is considering an offer from private equity firm CVC to buy a stake in the championship, which could prove to be a hurdle for the new league.
Officials from national rugby unions, competition owners and international player representatives attended the meeting in Dublin.
World Rugby said it would continue to work with players and leading domestic club competitions to optimise the model, while also committing to invest in a women’s Nations Championship.
The global league will include promotion and relegation to allow minor nations the possibility of access but that part of the format has been opposed by some unions.
“As you would expect in an ambitious, complex and multi-stakeholder project, not everyone is in full agreement on the way forward, including the matter of promotion and relegation, but we will continue to engage and consult,” Beaumont added.
According to World Rugby’s outline, the event will start in 2022 and run twice every four years, excluding those when World Cups or British and Irish Lions tours take place.
It will be split into two conferences, with the Six Nations retained as one and an expanded Rugby Championship tournament, adding two ‘Tier Two’ teams to the existing four southern hemisphere nations, as the other.
Each team will play the other once, with the top two teams from each conference playing the final.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Keith Weir)