Former British & Irish Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan says rugby needs to address the issue of inequality at both international and club levels.
The global halt in the rugby season caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has had rugby unions around the world scramble to survive the period financially.
The overreliance on television revenue is something that has become apparent in this time and McGeechan writes that this is a good period for introspection.
In his regular column for Stuff.co.nz, McGeechan says a point to start would be to reduce the number of fixtures each year and then move on to helping the development of tier-two nations.
‘The starting point has to be to reduce the number of games, because that is the biggest problem in modern professional rugby, and the biggest change in thinking required.
‘Ideally players would play no more than 30-35 games per year. How you do that, and still satisfy everyone, is open to debate. Television requires its pound of flesh for the vast sums it pumps in. But maybe it is time for rugby to accept a bit less money is the trade-off for a properly run, properly structured game. Squads could be trimmed. Agents’ fees need to be looked at. Fewer games opens up opportunities in the calendar.
‘Whatever happens, the issue of inequality must be part of any discussion. The game is hugely lopsided. And I don’t just mean the international game. Revenues should be spread more equally amongst clubs, too. Bernard Laporte’s idea of a world club cup as a revenue-raising scheme is possibly a step too far. But if it was to happen, the revenues should feed back into the professional game rather than make the rich richer.
‘On the international front. Tier-one nations have a moral obligation to help tier-two and -three countries, and there are so many ways they could do it. Through coaching and administration, through support alongside a playing programme which allows countries to develop and transition at each level.
‘One thing is for sure, we have an unprecedented opportunity. World Rugby’s latest figures suggest the game now has a significant growth in interest and following in Asia. Add the US to the list of World Cup venues and there is the potential for large global market involvement.
‘If all the thinking is on the table, the status quo can be challenged in a healthy way with open minds.’
Photo: Action Images/Ian Smith