What is it with sports administrators and daft ideas to reinvent things? The proposed rugby “World League” is up there with some other doozies of recent times, like former Premier League supremo Richard Scudamore’s “Game 39”, the idea that an 18-game NFL season will reduce injuries or taking the already shortened form of cricket and reducing it by 20 balls per innings.
The problems with the proposal are so obvious that it should never have seen the light of day – a focus group of players and fans should have told them that.
The most obvious and egregious problem is the blanket exclusion of the Pacific Island nations. Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga have given the game of rugby a wealth of talent and some of its greatest moments – think Cardiff Arms Park in 1991 and most recently the Olympic Sevens in Rio – but it seems that the old colonial attitudes still prevail at the top table. We can’t have the savages from the south seas beating up on the old Empire can we old chap?
Instead who’s in? We get Italy who are on course for a fourth consecutive Six Nations wooden spoon (and 14th in the 19 years since they joined the tournament in 2000) and currently ranked 15th. The USA might be a massive untapped market – particularly in World Rugby’s eyes – and while they’ve broken into the top tier in the Sevens game they need to show they’re competitive against sides like the Maori before getting regular cracks against the likes of the All Blacks.
Georgia – who should really be given the opportunity to break into the Six Nations – Spain, Canada? Sorry boys but you’re on the outer.
Then there’s player welfare issues, and its hard to see how a schedule like this with potentially games on five successive weekends and globe-trotting travel meshes with World Rugby’s other statements on the matter. If the words attributed to some of the games biggest names like “Kieran Reid” are anything to go by, the games powerbrokers have bought themselves a fight with the very people that they need on board. After all, the players produce the product.
And finally, there’s the nonsensical devaluing of World Rugby’s own biggest asset, the World Cup every four years. Is the apparent need to have a ‘champion’ team every year really that great?
It just reinforces Ben Ryan’s Enron analogy from late last year.
It’s a bad solution looking for a problem to try and solve.
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