Global season hopes falter ahead of World Rugby meeting in Buenos Aires

by admin on July 14th, 2018

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Northern success: RFU chairman Bill Beaumont, England coach Eddie Jones and RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie. Photo: Getty Images Australia and New Zealand’s hopes of a more equitable revenue share arrangement with their cashed-up northern hemisphere rivals appear dashed after RFU boss Ian Ritchie delivered a humiliating public smackdown to his southern hemisphere counterparts.

Perhaps emboldened by England’s strengthened position in the Test pecking order under Eddie Jones, the $340 million that poured into RFU coffers from Twickenham Stadium last year, or his $1 million annual salary, the England head honcho undertook some pointed expectation management ahead of crucial World Rugby meetings in Buenos Aires this weekend.

Ritchie told Australia and New Zealand to “go build a stadium” if they wanted to make more money in a challenging period for the game in both countries. In the process he appears to have revealed the New Zealand Rugby’s negotiating tactics, which use the pulling power of the All Blacks to justify a higher fee to play in London outside the international window in the European autumn and, most ambitiously, a cut of the gate takings at November Tests. Some reports suggested NZR were seeking a fee of $5 million – double the current fee – to play England at Twickenham next year.

“Of course they say they want more money, but there is nothing to stop Australia or New Zealand building a stadium,” Ritchie said. “Go build a stadium if you want to increase your revenue growth. We have all been through it here in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and ourselves, incurring debt on stadium build in order to reap the benefits.

“We didn’t get anything out of going to Australia in June. And ditto from the Lions. I can’t see the case for arguing the other way. Of course we should get a return on Twickenham from the money that the RFU has put in. We keep what we make to put back into the game. As for their lack of sustainability, I don’t see a lot of problems for them in terms of our difficulty in beating southern hemisphere teams.”

The comments are a blow to the hopes of NZR boss Steve Tew and ARU boss Bill Pulver, who are leading the campaign for a continuous global season that would allow Super Rugby to run uninterrupted from February to the first week of July.

Both men left behind full and contentious domestic briefs – Tew has lurched from off-field crisis to off-field crisis in recent weeks, while Pulver is on another cost-cutting drive around the provinces – to attend the meeting in Argentina, at which the subject will be discussed.

No decision will be made until a meeting of World Rugby’s executive council in November, but there is little doubt this weekend’s pow-wow will leave all parties with a clear picture of the direction the negotiations are taking.

While the ARU has kept its own counsel during this sensitive period, Ritchie and Tew have been happy to thrash out their positions in the media, sparking rumours of a deteriorating relationship between the pair.

Also on the agenda is Owen Franks’ alleged eye gouge on Australian Kane Douglas, which was adopted as a hot button topic by new World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot.

Pichot is expected to call for greater consistency in the citation process across the game.

Closed law trials being used in competitions around the world will also be reviewed, as will the performance of sevens at the Rio Olympics, and player welfare injury prevention strategies.

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