Sportbusiness.com is reporting that backers of a new world championship for leading club rugby teams are increasingly optimistic the first edition can be launched in 2022, citing a story in UK newspaper The Telegraph.
The format currently being considered would involve the top 16 teams in the world – eight from each hemisphere – competing every four years, with the first edition taking place at the end of the 2021-22 season.
The Telegraph reported that EPCR Chairman Simon Halliday said the discussions involved “World Rugby, the southern hemisphere and ourselves”, and that detailed discussions and presentations would take place in the coming weeks.
There were reports earlier this year about versions of the idea being discussed by potential stakeholders including the French Top 14 league, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), New Zealand Rugby and private equity firms Silver Lake and CVC Capital Partners.
New Zealand website Stuff.co.nz reported that the Northern Hemisphere qualifiers for the first tournament would be: the winners of Europe’s three big club leagues, the English Premiership, the Top 14 and the Pro14; the winner of the 2020-21 EPCR Champions Cup; and the four top-ranked finishers in the pool stage of the 2021-22 EPCR Champions Cup. Southern Hemisphere qualification has not yet been outlined.
There is a question mark over whether South African teams would qualify via the Northern or Southern Hemisphere route. After the break-up of the Southern Hemisphere’s Super Rugby competition this year, South African teams may enter the EPCR Champions Cup in the coming years.
The future of top-level club and international rugby union competitions has been the subject of much discussion over the last couple of years, which intensified this year with the disruption to calendars caused by Covid-19. Rugby chiefs are keen to revamp formats that were not working, such as Super Rugby, and capitalise on new opportunities, such as potential investment from private equity companies and the rise of rugby in Japan.