World Rugby gives more money to the ‘big’ and buys the silence of the ‘little’ with a 24-man World Cup

10/24/2023 at 7:45 p.m.


The World Council founds a competition for the 12 best teams, of which they will be the owners, and for those in Tier 2 it organizes the Challenger Series, whose income the institution keeps, and gives them four more places in 2027

Rugby is still established in 1872, date on which England and Scotland played the first match and the Home Unions began to weave a bureaucratic structure to ensure the ‘status quo’ in the face of the danger of the appearance of emerging countries that over the years have been gaining sporting weight.

Thus, World Rugby, the company, more than the institution, that governs the destinies of rugby in the world, and chaired by the Englishman Bill Beaumont, has confirmed its ‘expansion’ plan for the coming years. In reality, it is a reissue of the old “change everything so that no one changes.” This Tuesday, October 24, the World Council approved by 41 votes out of 51 the implementation of the Nations Cup, the Challengers Series, in the calendar, in addition to the expansion of the World Cup to 24 teams. As reported by Ignacio Chans in the Uruguayan media ‘El Observador’, of the 51 votes, 10 were against and of those ten, eight were from Argentina (3), South America Rugby (2), Rugby Europe (2) and Uruguay. It must be remembered that Spain does not have a vote because it is not applicable in World Rugby and in Rugby Europe it was lost at the time, passing into the hands of Portugal. That’s how we walk.

The new tournament promoted by World Rugby is, in reality, an interested adaptation of the one presented by Agustín Pichot, only that the latter is shielded from emerging countries, in addition to putting the money into the hands of the Home Unions. There is only one relegation and promotion place, sealing the dynamism proposed by the Nations League designed by the Argentine.

In the Nations Cup, which will be played from 2026, 12 teams will take part, the six from the Six Nations, the four from the Rugby Championship and two yet to be determined, which should be Japan and Fiji. This would be the 1st division of world rugby, leaving for the 2nd division the Challenger Series, in which there will be six selections from the northern hemisphere and six from the southern hemisphere. This would include Spain, Portugal, Georgia, Romania, Uruguay, Tonga, Samoa or Namibia. A promotion and a relegation spot are planned, with the worst of 1st with the best of 2nd, and in the best case scenario it would arrive in 2032. The Nations Cup and the Challenger Series will be played in even years (2026 and 2028) leaving the odd ones free for the World Cup (2027 in Australia) and the British Lions tour (2029). The matches will be played in the windows (June and November, the latter deciding the classification positions).

The money for the Home Unions and World Rugby

But the key to the matter comes with the ownership of the competition and the income from it. The Nations Cup will be owned by the Six Nations and Rugby Championship teams, who will share all the money from income, sponsorships, ticketing and more. While The Challenger Series will be owned by World Rugby, which will keep the money and distribute it among the different Rugby Unions. This ensures, as is the case now, that it continues to be the main sponsor of all federations, as is the case of the Spanish, and thus he has them tied hand and foot under threat of withdrawing their subsidies. This also resolves the complicated financial situation of some federations of Tier 1 countries that have been generating losses for years, such as England, Scotland, Wales or Australia. Thus, more income is generated for the Home Unions, without touching those who already have and put more money into the coffers.

The reality is that the financial and sporting gap is widening between Tier 1 nations (which will earn more money and play against each other) and Tier 2 nations (which will receive the World Rugby bonus and will still not play regularly with Tier 1 countries. ). According to the new model, there will be 27 matches in four years between teams from the Nations Cup (theoretically Tier 1 except Japan and Fiji, if they are chosen) and the Challengers Series (Tier 2). Of the 27, 17 are played during the British Lions tour year (which leaves the British and Irish teams in the picture), eight during the World Cup and two at the crossroads of promotion and relegation (or positions until 2032 arrives). . Who plays those Tier 2 games? The two best in the 2nd division play four (two in June and two in November), the third and fourth (one in each window) and fifth and sixth (one annually). World Rugby also reserves three ‘Wild Card Unions’ for the matches they decide strategically, which suggests that the USA, host of 2031, will have some of them. As you can see, there is no firm commitment to integrating Tier 2 into the dynamics of Tier 1 to make them grow.

Four World Cup places to buy silence

However, Coincidentally, the increase in the number of participants in the World Cup to 24 has also been approved. This increases the chances of teams like Spain, who has only attended once, in 1999. A rude maneuver to silence mouths, especially now that a debate is open, given the beatings in the France World Cupabout whether there are too many teams in the tournament. In Australia 2027 there will be 24 participants (6 groups of 4), the round of 16 will be played to which the two best in each group and the four best third-place finishers will qualify, and despite this the duration of the tournament will be reduced to 6 weeks. instead of seven, with more interweekly games.

A measure that guarantees that there will be even more beatings in the World Cups, by equalizing from below and not above to silence voices, but allows World Rugby to attract interesting economic markets such as Spain, Germany or Brazil, whose teams are very far from the World Cup level. . This gift from World Rugby, which triggers the options of going to the World Cup for minor teams, actually disguises the true reality of the measure taken today, which is the creation of a Nations Cup that shields the current ‘establishment’ of rugby and expands the gap between Tier 1 and 2 countries.

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