Infographics: Global Season now!
Two hemispheres – two tribes. It can’t go on like this. World Rugby needs to get some traction on changing the global rugby calendar to protect the sanctity of international Test Rugby Union now, or post-RWC 2019 (as NZ Rugby CEO Steve Tew has already hinted) could see individual nations heading off on their own route.
To illustrate how out of whack the two hemispheres are currently operating through the calendar year, and clearly show the different priorities of Club vs Country therein, Ruggerblogger has created the infographic slideshow above. The calendar year is shown as a clock. January is at 12 o’clock, and the year rolls round from there. The three tiers of professional mens’ fifteens rugby union are shown as concentric rings around that calendar: domestic provincial/club competitions, multi-national provincial/club competitions, and international, or, Test rugby.
There is clearly a seasonal factor to this, after all our winter’s are at different times in the year, but football deals with this. What I believe is more glaring is that you can clearly see that in New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, with central contracts the national union has the competitions they control working, from the grass roots up, for the benefit of their national team. The top tier Super Rugby season starts and stops to fit around Tests, and the presence of a feeder provincial competition (still to be confirmed for 2016 in Australia) provides a conveyor belt of talent, yet operates almost in a bubble. We also play more Tests because we tour more and visit the UK & Europe every year.
Contrast this to the UK, Ireland and especially France, where clubs at completely at odds with their national unions. They are privately owned entities that all play in multiple competitions, spread ridiculously across the year. This means they carry huge, expensive squads to compete effectively for such long seasons that overlap Test windows. Look at France’s Top 14… it runs for about 45 weeks out of the year.
In New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, with central contracts the national union has the competitions they control working, from the grass roots up, for the benefit of their national team.
The Southern Hemisphere nations remains dominant. They made up all the semi-finalists at RWC2015; only one Northern Hemisphere nation has won a World Cup in eight attempts; French and English clubs constantly poach our talent, and it is their visits that pack stadiums on tours overseas. Naturally I am a biased All Blacks fan, and you can’t convince me we’re not consistently the best team in this sport… yet I can’t see any Northern Hemisphere team winning a World Cup until they can compete in a Test calendar that doesn’t see them battle with clubs to get their best players released.
Clearly, there are also a lot of nations not shown here: Italy, the Pasifika countries, Japan, Romania, Georgia for example, but they would maybe benefit even more from a uniform global season with windows for Tests because it’s these countries that supply a lot of players to the rich clubs of France & England, and they deserve to have a level playing field that also allows them to consistently assemble their best teams.
The solution is not straight forward – I do not know exactly what it is, but both hemispheres will have to yield some ground. It would be great to get some views on this. Should the Six Nations move later? Should there be fewer Tests overall? And how do we fairly split the gate money post-2019 so that touring teams get a fair portion? How does Super Rugby get condensed to not overlap the mid-year Tests and still allow for inevitable expansion? How can the French and English unions reconcile with their clubs to reign in their ambitions & spending that threaten Tests? When will the Top 14 ever end?!
Caveats: 1) This isn’t exact or ‘to the day’, the calendar is rounded to roughly 4-week months 2) Wales, Scotland & Ireland are done together because of the Pro 12, Italy would also fit into basically this calendar 3) Argentina by and large now follows the same calendar for Super Rugby and Tests as NZL, SAF and AUS