Seven point plan to save Super Rugby

Rugby is struggling, there is no doubt about it.

We are less than a week away from the start of Super Rugby Pacific, and unless you were a faithful follower, or reader of The Roar, like me, you wouldn’t really know it.

Some good things have happened in the last six months (like Les Kiss appearing to breathe life into the Reds for example), but these are being overshadowed by the need for the Waratahs to hand everything back to Rugby Australia, the financial woes of the Rebels and the rumblings of similar financial issues with the Brumbies and some of the NZ clubs.

Rugby in Australia is screwed if things don’t change, and if they aren’t careful, NZR could easily get dragged into it as well.

I was heartened to hear the new Chair of Super Rugby Pacific, Kevin Malloy, say that things must change, but then was quickly deflated to hear him say one of the first things he wanted was to try to get more free to air coverage in NZ.

(Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

The fact is the way the product is delivered to market is not the problem. The product is the problem. No-one cares. Dwindling crowds, dwindling tv audiences, dwindling interest from sponsors.

The product must be changed, and by that I don’t mean tweak the offside rule from kicks. I mean junk the whole SRP competition and either leave NZ and Australia go their separate way or work together to make SRP financially sustainable.

Personally, I want SRP to remain but for that to happen there needs to be enough money available so clubs can have a salary cap of around $10 million or more without going broke.

Here is my wish list for what needs to happen to make this happen:
1. Create a new entity, much like the Ligue Nationale de Rugby in France. Let’s call it PRiNZA – Professional Rugby in New Zealand and Australia.

Watch every match of Super Rugby Pacific ad-free, live & on demand on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport.

The focus of PRiNZA should be to develop a profitable two-tier professional rugby competition with promotion/relegation by 2030 and Kevin Malloy can remain the Chair.

RA and NZRU could remain shareholders of PRiNZA, but they should not have a say in how it is run, and it needs to stop being a training competition for the All Blacks and Wallabies. National players should be available for specific windows during the season like they are in the Northern Hemisphere, but shouldn’t be required to stand down so they are fresh for national games.

2. Start with the current SRP clubs as the foundation. From 2025 they should be funded from a combination of revenue sharing from PRiNZA (that comes from broadcasting and sponsorship) and club initiated revenue from membership and sponsorships. No more handouts (in the form of money or player top ups) from RA or NZR.

3. All SRP clubs need to operate under the same salary cap. RA and NZR to agree they will pay their national players separately from their SRP clubs. I don’t care how or how much.

Similar to the NRL, players can’t be paid significant “unders” with the rest coming from third parties.

5. In 2025, turn SRP into a full home and away season. All teams to have 11 home games and the competition to be 22 rounds plus finals. Squads might need to be expanded, but clubs will have more change of increasing revenue with more home games.

This will give PRiNZA time to renegotioate broadcasting and sponsorships. RA and NZR could work with PRiNZA to maximise revenue from the Wallaby and All Black broadcasting rights, or they could negotiate seperately.

6. In 2025, PRiNZA to invite clubs to be part of a 2nd tier competition starting in 2027, with promotion/relegation starting in 2029.

7. In 2026 (or 2025 if possible!, PRiNZA to start a Champions trophy type competition with the Japanese One clubs.

I get that this is not going to change the fortunes of struggling clubs immediately or turn around the win/loss rate between Australian and New Zealand sides. However, I think by making these changes it will at least set professional rugby in Australia and New Zealand on a more sustainable footing.

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