Bernard Laporte’s proposal for an annual Club World Cup to be run at the expense of the Heineken Champions Cup has received a lukewarm response in the Northern Hemisphere at least.
Laporte’s radical plan, revealed in French newspaper Midi Olympique, is for a 20-team tournament split into four pools involving the top four teams from each of the Guinness PRO14, English Premiership, and French Top14 alongside six Super Rugby participants and the champions from Japan and the United States to take place over a condensed period each summer except for World Cup years.
It is part of the former France and Toulon head coach’s manifesto in his bid to become World Rugby vice-chairman under the governing body’s chairman Bill Beaumont. The pair are running mates in next month’s World Rugby elections with Laporte seeking to replace Agustin Pichot.
With an already crowded global calendar, such a competition would clearly have to come at the expense of another and Laporte has targeted the Champions Cup, which he won three times as Toulon boss from 2013-15.
With rugby currently shut down across the world due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and players, clubs and unions all suffering the financial consequences, Laporte told Midi Olympique:
This crisis must push us to be innovative. Let’s make this new competition, I am sure that the public, partners and televisions will follow.
“Faced with today’s threats, we must move the lines, multiply aid and imagine what will be the rugby of tomorrow. This is why, for several weeks, I have been working with Bill Beaumont on the restructuring of the international calendar in order to standardise the windows reserved for national teams. And, in fact, create a new window dedicated to clubs, which would allow the creation of a new international competition: the Club World Cup. This will be included in our manifesto which will be sent this week to all the federations.”
Champions Cup organisers European Professional Club Rugby, of which the Irish Rugby Football Union is a board member, had no comment to make on the proposal when asked by the Irish Examiner while the private reactions of some in professional rugby in Ireland have ranged from lukewarm to withering.
“Is World Rugby paying for this,” asked one, “because none of the clubs could afford to be in it. They would have to stage it one place and there would have to be one big TV deal to make it work. It sounds like pie in the sky in the current climate.”
Bruce Craig, owner of English Premiership stalwarts Bath, said that any global club tournament should not replace European club competition and would have to run by the clubs themselves and not World Rugby.
“This project is a club competition, not an international tournament and must therefore be piloted by the clubs; it should not be placed under the aegis of World Rugby,” Craig told the Guardian.
“We are talking about a Club World Cup project that would have linked the best entities on the planet every four years. A kind of World Champions Cup which would therefore not encroach on the European Cup as it exists today.
“A Club World Cup would allow an immediate redesign of the international calendar, a reform that would clearly separate club rugby from the international game and thus avoid players playing 30 games per season, as is the case today. But whatever happens in the coming months, club rugby must remain managed by the clubs, it is non-negotiable.”