Some thoughts for you to chew on…
I was asked yesterday by someone at Sky what my feeling was on the future of SuperRugby and I said, all three Unions of SANZAR have recently released their year end figures and none of them made any real profit. They are all close to borderline break even.
The current number Super Rugby matches per annum is 125, so any reduction of matches would no doubt mean a reduction in broadcast money.
The talk is about South Africa splitting from SANZAR in terms of Super Rugby only. However the South African time zone goes a long way to pushing up the money that is earned from the broadcast deal.
If SA leave, more matches will be played in New Zealand and Australian time zones (according to the reports). This has no global appeal.
No one is going to wake up at 2 or 3 AM in the UK and watch for example the Chiefs play the Force or the Highlanders not to mention South Africans getting up at 4AM. They would get up to watch the Springboks but for a team that they are not involved with like a Trans Tasman tournament, they won’t get up in numbers. This will kill the South African Audience and the European audience.
I seriously doubt that Rugby-Talk would even put a match like that on the website at 3AM, let alone one of the main channels. In short the potential split will drastically reduce the appeal in terms of broadcasting value and these Unions desperately need the money to keep their players at home.
In years gone by, Europe and in particular France, were the big talent poachers but now Japan have joined and are throwing bigger money than ever before at Super Rugby players.
Six players from the last Springbok team (June) have taken up overseas offers this season (seven if you include the bench). Players are no longer waiting until the end of their careers to go abroad and they are cashing in much earlier. In New Zealand players like Richard Kahui and in Australia Drew Mitchell and Berrick Barnes have left. They are getting younger and younger.
The only way the SANZAR nations can combat this is to pay their players more. That money has to come from the national unions and they get their money from SANZAR.
SANZAR can’t afford to let South Africa split from them and Argentina are not ready to join in terms of playing skill. The same applies for Japan and the Pacific Islands.
In an ideal world Australia need a Currie Cup style competition and Super Rugby needs an Amlin Challenge Cup style competition for qualification and to develop Argentina, Japan and the Islands. Everyone compares Super Rugby to the Heineken Cup but a tournament played across Europe just isn’t the same as a tournament being played across Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Auckland and Tokyo. There is just too much travel.
The split idea is the most radical of the formats being looked at so it will get the most coverage in the media due to the shock factor. There has also been talk of a Super 16 and a Super 18 of which only the S18 will work. In 2020 things will be very different again.
For the last 10 years I have predicted SANZAR’s “next move” almost perfectly and I just can’t see Australia and New Zealand letting SA split. When the first SANZAR deal was done, Louis Luyt negotiated that South Africa got 35% of the broadcast money and that was renewed in the second deal by Brian van Rooyen. In the third deal Regan Hoskins and Andy Marinos let it slip (R125m) and I feel that it’s more likely that Australia and New Zealand will have to sweeten the deal for SA to keep them in and be quiet about the Southern Kings.
There are some things behind the scenes that SANZAR have done recently which also make me believe that the only change that can happen is a Super 18 with 3 Conferences of 6 teams each, with the 6 SA RUGBY franchises, with the addition of the Argentines and the top Japanese team added to the Australian and NZ conferences, to assist the Japanese prepare for RWC 2019.
This opens new corporate sponsorship opportunities with the Japanese and to grow TV audiences with the Japanese population, bolstering viewership figures to validate increased revenues for a TV deal from 2016-2020.
But what to do about 2013-2015, for the team(s) sitting out of Super Rugby, there is a hole in the financial bucket in SA Rugby and that needs a solution before the end of August 2013.
There are options and these need to be presented to and demanded from SA Rugby now, not at next year’s Promotion / Relegation battle.
Food for thought…