Rugby Australia touts ‘Super Eight’ event with two teams from SA
Melbourne — Rugby Australia boss Rob Clarke said on Monday he is confident a slew of proposed competitions for 2021 would appeal to broadcasters and deliver a rights deal that will underpin the domestic game amid “challenging times” brought by Covid-19.
Interim CEO Clarke said Rugby Australia has submitted documentation on its “largest ever” rights package to broadcasters. Apart from Wallabies Tests, Rugby Australia included a proposed “Super Eight” tournament featuring provincial teams from across the southern hemisphere and Japan, despite lacking sign-off from participants.
The four-week Super Eight would comprise two teams each from Australia, New Zealand and SA, and one each from Japan and South America. It would follow a trans-Tasman competition featuring five Australian teams and New Zealand sides in the first half of 2021, also yet to be settled.
Rugby Australia is also offering a proposed “State of Union” series between Australia’s two traditional rugby powers, Queensland and New South Wales, emulating the National Rugby League’s annual “State of Origin”. A “short form” national club rugby championship rounds out the new content.
“When you look at it that way, there is a package of rights from grassroots right to the top of the international game and it’s a really high-quality offering for any prospective broadcaster,” Clarke said.
The Covid-19 outbreak pulled out the rug under Rugby Australia’s negotiations for a new rights deal under former CEO Raelene Castle, who rejected the five-year extension on reduced terms offered by News Corp-owned Fox Sports. Fox Sports is currently screening the domestic “Super Rugby AU” competition, organised to fill the void left by the abandonment of the 2020 Super Rugby championship.
Clarke said Rugby Australia hopes for another five-year deal and that “multiple” broadcasters in Australia and overseas are interested. However, he added that Rugby Australia would allow broadcasters to cherry-pick and compromise on the time-frame if necessary.
“Frankly, we know that sports’ broadcast rights have had some challenging times,” he said. “That said, rugby has an enormous amount to offer.”
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