Picture: 123RF/WAVEBREAK MEDIA LTD
Picture: 123RF/WAVEBREAK MEDIA LTD

Plans for a World Cup-style tournament in 2021 to help ease the financial crisis in the sport appear further from reality than its architects believe it to be.

Details of the ambitious 16-team tournament‚ which its organisers say will raise up to £250m (R5.3bn)‚ were revealed in the Telegraph on Wednesday but SA Rugby has poured cold water on the notion that such a tournament is possible.

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said the organisation was unaware of plans for such a tournament, and would not comment on the idea.

For the tournament to have a modicum of credibility‚ it would have to include the Springboks‚ the reigning Rugby World Cup champions.

Much of the groundwork for the proposed tournament has apparently been steered by former Rugby Football Union (RFU) CEO Francis Baron.

The Telegraph reported the RFU has been urged to back radical plans for staging a special World Cup-style tournament in the UK and Ireland next European summer.

“It is understood draft proposals for a 16-team invitational tournament‚ to be held in June and July next year‚ have been submitted to both World Rugby and the RFU for consideration‚ with a working title of the ‘Coronavirus Cup of World Rugby’‚” the paper wrote.

“The competition‚ the centrepiece of a financial rescue plan independently drawn up by Baron‚ is based on the template used for the 2015 World Cup in England — but would involve matches played at the national stadiums of each of the four home unions.”

It is unlikely 16 nations will gather for a tournament in an already congested calendar.

SA Rugby has reason to be protective over that midyear slot as the British and Irish Lions are due to start their tour of SA in July. With up to 40,000 tourists descending on SA‚ the tour could be a lifeline for SA Rugby which has struggled to keep its head above  water.

The national rugby body has been hard hit by Covid-19 restrictions. The local rugby industry has taken R1bn off its budget.

“We had just emerged from the slump from 2016 and 2017 and were starting to show a profit. Then Covid-19 comes around and we have to start from scratch‚” said Alexander.

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