Rugby's new World 12s promises economic model that ‘makes sense’
Rugby union - 17 Sep 2021
World 12s, the organiser of the recently announced short-form rugby tournament, has the finances in place to bring the competition to fruition and Is eyeing Eddie Jones, the head coach of the England rugby union team, as its main target for involvement, it has been reported.
Unveiled last week, the aim of World 12s is to attract new fans to the sport through an "innovative shortened format", with, as the name suggests, teams of 12 rather than 15 playing matches of 30-minute halves.
The project is costed at £250 million ($344 million) and the intention is to attract top international players to play for eight franchised teams in each of the men’s and women’s formats.
The inaugural edition of the men’s tournament is penned in for August and September next year, while the women’s is the following year due to the delayed 2021 women's Rugby World Cup now taking place in 2022.
When it was announced, World 12s said it is backed by a UK-based financial consortium, and speaking to the UK’s Daily Telegraph, chairman of the World 12s board (and former chief executive of England’s Rugby Football Union) Ian Ritchie said he believes there is a compelling financial case for the tournament.
Arguing that the planned model could help keep top international players at their clubs in England and build new audiences for rugby, Ritchie is quoted as saying: “I believe that we can put an economic model in front of [clubs in England] that makes sense for player release. It's not diluting their commerciality.”
He is also said to have noted that the model would fall outside of the Premiership’s salary cap, which could make it particularly attractive for players.
From the perspective of the wider game, Ritchie reportedly suggested World 12s would be a complementary addition to the calendar that could attract new fans, similar to cricket’s The Hundred.
The Telegraph quotes him as saying: “Anybody who runs a business – and sport is a business now – has to embrace innovation, you've got to look at doing something different.
"If you look at The Hundred in cricket, it's attracted a whole new load of people who have never even watched the cricket game before. And I think this has the possibility of that and I don't think it's going to stop people going to Harlequins or to Bath, nor would we want it to.”
Elsewhere, Ritchie also reportedly said that “the ambition would be to attract Jones and other international head coaches such as Ireland’s Andy Farrell” in addition to top players.
While he noted that coaches would have to fit the tournament around existing commitments, getting such names on board would add credibility to World 12s and, ultimately, help to grow interest.
Ritchie is said to be keen to present the business case for the tournament to the RFU and Premiership club owners, as well as to discuss issues like player welfare.