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Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# Rugby's Future
Remedying global calendar issue the biggest challenge for Beaumont
New Zealand Rugby have threatened to break away after the current agreement ends in 2019.

BILL BEAUMONT BELIEVES his biggest challenge as chairman of World Rugby will be to solve the issue of the global calendar.

Current RFU and Six Nations chairman Beaumont will begin his term on 1 July after he was unanimously voted in at World Rugby’s council meeting in Dublin today.

Along with new vice-chairman Agustín Pichot, the former Argentina scrum-half, Beaumont must tackle a crucial issue that threatens to disrupt international rugby.

The All Blacks perform the Haka World Rugby / Richard Heathcote/INPHO New Zealand Rugby is unhappy with the current calendar. World Rugby / Richard Heathcote/INPHO / Richard Heathcote/INPHO

The current global agreement for international rugby fixtures extends only to 2019, whereafter no Test rugby has been scheduled or agreed upon.

At present, unions across the world, players’ associations, and clubs are all agitating about what should come next as they seek to ensure that their best interests are accounted for.

In March, New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew threatened that the All Blacks would break away from rugby’s touring schedule after 2019 if an improved global season couldn’t be agreed upon.

Tew argued that the “current system is unsustainable” and said New Zealand Rugby are “going to force the issue” rather than continue with the status quo.

Among the issues is the fact that the southern hemisphere unions want June tours to be pushed forward to July, meaning that Super Rugby is not forced to break when the northern hemisphere sides travel south.

Shifting the summer tours would mean a re-jig of the northern hemisphere season too, and Six Nations organisers have been steadfast in stating that they will not entertain shifting that competition.

Meanwhile, the French clubs are on the record as saying they want a total separation of club and Test rugby, meaning they do not lose their highly-paid stars during the Six Nations, November Tests and June tours.

There are many other elements to the argument. All in all, Beaumont and World Rugby have a hugely complicated issue on their hands that needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

“If it was that easy, then everyone would have thought of it,” said Beaumont today when asked for his initial thoughts on a solution.

Bill Beaumont Billy Stickland / INPHO Beaumont was elected today in Dublin. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“You have got tournaments that are played in the traditional time of year, the Six Nations in February and March. For me, personally, it would be around the June/July time.

“That would be the area that you could probably look at without tearing everything up. The calendar is a challenge but it is one that I think everybody realises [must be resolved] now because 2019 is looming rapidly.”

Beaumont feels it is “certainly very realistic” that an agreement could be in place by the end of this year, with the next World Rugby Council set for November, and the body’s executive committee set to meet the month before.

In order to ensure that the process makes genuine progress in a short space of time, Beaumont indicated that “a smaller group within World Rugby” will take charge.

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The Englishman, capped 34 times by England and seven times by the Lions, believes there is “a real will” on all sides to get this issue sorted as soon as possible, but it remains to be seen who is actually willing to compromise.

Beaumont says the Six Nations must be prepared to look at moving forward by a month, while accepting that Six Nations CEO John Feehan is “probably be quite reluctant” to even consider the possibility.

“That competition sits in a calendar where it has been for a long time,” said Beaumont. “In February and March it has an unparalleled profile for a tournament, because we are not really into Champions League soccer; it is still in the qualifying stages.

“You don’t have any other of the real major sporting events. So you can understand the Six Nations for being comfortable there. You move into April and then you probably find are the broadcasters happy at it being moved?

“Also from a supporters point of view, there’s a tribalism, isn’t there?”

A view of a scrum Dan Sheridan / INPHO The Six Nations is reluctant to even consider budging. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

The June/July issue looks like being an essential point in all of this, and Beaumont indicated that he can understand where the southern hemisphere unions are coming from.

“I don’t necessarily think that somebody has to budge, it’s about reaching compromises,” said the 64-year-old. “You might get a situation like in a business deal where you shake hands on something and you’re both slightly disappointed because you’d like to get a bit more, and it could be one of these decisions that may be done around the calendar.

“Certainly the pressure from the south is that they would wish to conclude Super Rugby by the end of June; they don’t like to see a break.

“I can understand that because when you’re operating on four continents, four different time zones; it’s difficult. Whereby in Europe wherever you play you’re back by that night or the next day so it’s a lot easier for us in Europe to move around and play matches.”

Beaumont doesn’t agree that remedying the global calendar issue is going to require a major shift.

“I might not think two or three weeks is a major shift. There are ideas that you move the other way, that you move [the] June [Test window] into October and you have an October-November [Test] window.

“But then you run into the problems that the clubs and the provinces are all at the start of their season and it’s very important for them to start their season.”

Beaumont underlined that the Rugby World Cup – “the greatest flagship for the game” – and the Lions tour will be essential to whatever agreement is reached with the global calendar.

The incoming World Rugby chairman and all of those involved in the game certainly have some robust and important discussions ahead.

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