The Rugby Football Union (RFU), the governing body of rugby union in England, and the sport’s top-tier Premiership in the country, have reached an agreement over scheduling the domestic tournament around the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The 2015-16 domestic season will begin on the weekend of October 17 after the International Rugby Board (IRB), which will operate next year’s international tournament, granted dispensation for Premiership games to be staged during the World Cup’s knockout phase.
The two-part agreement could be worth up to £13m (€15.3m/$19.6m) to Premiership clubs, with half of the total being generated by the re-allocation of match revenues for both union and clubs to increase income for 2015-16, and £7m in payments for the lack of Premiership matches during the World Cup group stages.
The Premiership had been seeking £14m in lost revenue from the RFU, with some owners having threatened to play their club matches throughout the Rugby World Cup if their demands were not met. England head coach Stuart Lancaster will also name his next elite player squad on October 22, delaying the announcement from its traditional slot in August.
“It's a reflection of the strength of the partnership that once again we have managed to come to an arrangement that benefits both the RFU and clubs,” RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said.
“We're very happy to continue to invest significant sums into Premiership Rugby and to support their desire to be successful on and off the pitch. By the very nature of the deal, the more successful the RFU is, the more the clubs benefit, while it is good that Premiership Rugby continue to use Twickenham to develop their competition. It is also significant that there is an incentive to conclude negotiations swiftly around a new long-term 'heads of agreement' that has proved so successful to date.”
It has not been decided yet how the 12 Premiership clubs will divide the income from the agreement, the league’s chief executive Mark McCafferty said.
“We have resolved a challenging issue in a mutually beneficial way through productive discussions over the last few months, largely behind the scenes,” McCafferty added. “This announcement underlines the partnership between Premiership Rugby and the RFU to help England's bid to achieve our goals in 2015 and beyond, as well as to support our clubs. The delay of the announcement of the elite player squad until October 22 has allowed the first six rounds of the Premiership to be a live trial for players striving to make that EPS.”