World Rugby’s proposed Nations Championship suffered a blow on Tuesday after the Rugby Football Union said that England’s potential relegation from the tournament would be “catastrophic” and a “commercial disaster”.
Rugby union’s governing body is keen to introduce a global competition featuring 12 countries – initially teams in the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, plus Japan and the United States. However, plans for promotion and relegation are causing huge concern for the RFU, according to acting chief executive Nigel Melville.
It has been speculated Twickenham may have to be sold to cover for the inevitable collapse in revenue if England to drop into a tier-two competition. It is a situation Melville is determined to avoid.
“I think we make sure it doesn’t arise. That solves that problem. You just don’t want to get into a situation where you’re making decisions like that,” Melville said.
“For us it could be catastrophic being relegated, commercially. To be relegated, the catastrophe isn’t just the team being relegated, it’s our ability to fund the game as a governing body in England.
“Can we fund the community game in England to the level we do now if we don’t have the revenues we have? And on the point of promotion and relegation, there’s no promotion and relegation in a Lions year and there’s no tournament in a World Cup year.
“So when you’re relegated, you’re relegated for two years, not one. It’s not quite up and down, one season on the naughty step and go back up, it’s actually two years and that could be a disaster for people.”
The RFU will hold a board meeting about the new tournament today (Wednesday) before another meeting of the Six Nations unions.
A decision must be made in two weeks, and there has to be unanimous support from all teams involved. According to the Daily Mail, the RFU has informed rival nations that it will not sign up to the proposal.
The Six Nations has received large offer from a private equity firm, CVC Partners, which also threatens to derail World Rugby’s plans.
“We talk about a global window and it makes sense to look at those windows to see if they can be combined,” Melville said. “The narrative makes sense, but there are obvious concerns coming out of the proposal.”