World Rugby chiefs have called for “comprehensive consultation” after the launching of a new short-form international rugby union competition was floated on Tuesday.
The World 12s event, which is backed by a UK-based financial consortium and has yet to attain the backing of any federation, aims to pit the globe’s top players against each other in a 12-vs-12 format over 30-minute matches.
Organisers are aiming to launch the inaugural men’s tournament in England in August 2022, with the first women’s event taking place a year later.
They hope £250 million ($345m) will be generated by the competition over five years, while also attracting new fans to the sport.
The plan is that 192 of the world’s best male players from tier-one and tier-two nations will be picked via auction to represent eight franchises that consist of 24 players each.
World 12s chairman Ian Ritchie described the concept as “a natural evolution for rugby union”.
Ritchie, a former chief executive of the English Rugby Football Union, is joined on the board by former New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew and former chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union Gareth Davies.
“We feel that this is a game for our changing, fast-paced world that can excite a global fan base in the way that we have seen with the IPL [Indian Premier League] or most recently The Hundred in cricket,” added Ritchie.
However, governing body World Rugby responded to the scheme by questioning how it will fit within the new global rugby calendar, which is currently being drawn up.
“We are aware of the proposed new World 12s competition,” a World Rugby spokesperson said.
“While we welcome innovative thinking with the potential to advance the reach, attractiveness and growth of the sport, comprehensive consultation with the organisers is required to understand the viability of the concept, particularly in the context of ongoing global calendar discussions and the priority area of player welfare.”
The new event may struggle to get clubs in European leagues to allow their players to take part during a period when they are usually either on holiday or in pre-season.
“We were made aware of the project to create a new 12-a-side tournament on Monday,” a statement from the English Premiership said.
“We believe any proposed new competition will require extensive consultation. It can only be considered in the broader context of player welfare and the already congested global calendar.”
© Agence France-Presse