Rugby chiefs discussed proposed landmark changes to the sport’s global calendar with a conference call between stakeholders yesterday.
Welsh Rugby Union chairman Gareth Davies described the meeting, which was attended (virtually) by representatives from the game's top nations and leagues, as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity “to develop the world game.”
Among the topics on the table were a greater alignment of the existing calendars in the northern and southern hemisphere, an extended autumn window that would allow test matches to be played throughout October and November along with a later start and finish date for the Six Nations.
World Rugby admitted “frank views” had been exchanged in the lengthy online meeting. No decisions were reached but ‘further information sharing and discussion will be undertaken’ by all parties according to a statement.
Officials are due to meet again on June 30 to discuss plans for the remainder of 2020 with hopes that the Six Nations can be completed during October and November.
In a statement issued last night, World Rugby noted that it’s Professional Game Forum “provided the platform for national unions, international and professional club competitions and players to exchange frank views and consider immediate and long-term calendar reform.
“With the global COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacting the 2020 rugby calendar and union and club finances, all parties recognise the need to agree a compromise solution that enables both disrupted professional club and international competitions to be completed this year. In the absence of full alignment, further information sharing and discussion will be undertaken with all parties regarding the viability of proposed adjustments to the 2020 international release weekends stipulated in Regulation 9 that will enable postponed and other international matches to be played in an adjusted window from October, while enabling the completion of existing club competitions.
“The final decision on 2020 will be confirmed by vote of the World Rugby Council on 30 June following consideration and recommendation by the World Rugby Executive Committee. There was also commitment to further detailed commercial and player welfare modelling in full collaboration with the club game to better assess the viability and attractiveness, for all parties, of a potential new ongoing global release period of October/November from 2021, replacing the July window.”
SRU chief executive Mark Dodson, who represented his union on the call, was optimistic that change is coming: “The proposed [new] October-November window will allow meaningful competition to take place. You’ll find some sort of competition will take place during that window and the game will be all the better for it. I’ve been in so many of these conversations over the last ten years and it’s very easy to see stuff go off the table. This time is different, there is a collective view, there seems to be more ambition and there seems to be more patience with each other.”
Davies shared Dodson’s view that the current crisis had forced a meeting of minds.
“Everybody’s on the same page wanting to see this crisis lead to an opportunity to try to solve some of the conundrums that have been around for the past 25 years,” he told the BBC.
“The three major issues in the game are the north-south divide, the club v country divide and dealing with developing the whole game."