The expansion of Super Rugby from a 14-team to a 15-team tournament may be short-lived. It is almost certain to expand to a 16- or-18 team competition in the next five years.
Andy Marinos, the acting Managing Director of the South African Rugby Union, said SANZAR “sincerely hope” to achieve another expansion within the next five-year cycle.
And the addition of Argentina, which will see the Tri-Nations become a Four Nations tournament, was again confirmed for 2012.
Rugby 365′s Jan De Koning writes that Marinos was speaking at a media function in Cape Town where SANZAR confirmed a new broadcast rights agreements for competitions across Australia, New Zealand and South Africa over the five-year period – from 2011 to 2015.
The new agreement is valued at US$437 million, which is a 35 percent increase on the comparable components of the current five-year agreement – which were valued at US$323 million.
Marinos described it as a “significant day” to be able to confirm the extension of the broadcast deal, following a “long and protracted” negotiation process.
Agreements for additional territories such as Europe, North America and Asia are still under negotiation and will add to this total.
Marinos revealed that South Africa’s income increased by 34 percent, with New Zealand getting 29 percent more and Australia 35 percent – even though the split of the US$437 million pot was one third each.
“This puts southern hemisphere rugby in a very strong and formidable position,” Marinos said, adding that: “It is going to put us on a very firm and sound financial footing going forward.”
Asked about the possibilities of expansion after 2011, when it becomes a Super 15, he said they are look seriously at it.
He pointed out that next year, a World Cup year, will produce an abbreviated 21-week Super Rugby tournament to accommodate the global showpiece.
“We won’t get a real feel, with the World Cup next year,” Marinos said, adding: “In 2012 it will be our first pure season.
“From a SANZAR perspective one of our imperatives is to continue to ‘expand, enhance and develop’ our competitions to make it the best in the world.
“So we are not completely closed that during the next five-year cycle we could have an expansion – either to 16 or to 18 teams.”
He said they “sincerely hope” to achieve the expansion within the next five-year cycle.
As for the addition of Argentina, which would only take place from 2012, he said it remains a “conditional entry”.
“While they have just about satisfied all the requirements, there are one or two hurdles we need to get over.
“Those we hope to have resolved by the end of May,” Marinos added.
Current SANZAR and New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew said the new broadcast deal represent a major vote of confidence in southern hemisphere rugby.
“We believe that rugby is in good health and that its appeal remains strong both in terms of participation and in terms of the interest of our fans across South Africa, New Zealand and Australia,” Tew said.
“This agreement underlines that and helps secure the new competitions and deliver them in all three countries and also, importantly, supports the game’s funding which allows all three Unions to continue to develop rugby through our investment in the community and amateur game and the retention of our best players and coaches.”
* Meanwhile, the proposed changes to the two marquee SANZAR competitions are already well underway.
Melbourne has been confirmed as the 15th Super Rugby Franchise from 2011 in a new conference-based competition.
Tew said the competition changes herald significant new appeal to the fans.
Market research undertaken in the SANZAR territories indicates fans place increased importance on local derby contests – which will be enhanced in the new Super Rugby competition – and support the potential evolution of the Tri-Nations with the inclusion of Argentina.
Australian Rugby Union Managing Director and CEO John O’Neill said 2011 would be a transforming season for the game across the SANZAR territories.
“This new broadcasting agreement, coupled with the exciting changes to take effect in Super Rugby next year, presents an opportunity for SANZAR to further enhance the popularity, profile and public support for the code,” he said in a statement.
“The implementation of a new and unique conference format is ground-breaking and it will deliver more compelling Super Rugby on a more frequent basis in each of the three countries. The ‘local derbies’ concept is one that inspires a sense of tribalism and internal rivalry in each country and we will further capitalise on that through playing those matches on a home and away basis.
“These are encouraging times for the game. We came through a difficult financial period that affected sports and businesses across the globe and have subsequently emerged with a superior broadcast deal to the previous two in place from 1996 and 2006.”Tweet