World Rugby can confirm that that it has taken the reluctant decision to discontinue plans for the Nations Championship after the required unanimous agreement by unions to enter into exclusive negotiations was not achieved by Wednesday’s deadline.
Despite strong progress in collaboration with unions, competition owners and International Rugby Players, including full engagement on the detailed process of financial due diligence, a lack of consensus on key issues, particularly the timing and format of promotion and relegation, left World Rugby with no alternative but to discontinue the project.
The core objective of the Nations Championship was to secure a strong and sustainable financial and competition model for unions, provide for the first time a meaningful competition pathway for all emerging nations, further inject excitement into the international game for fans and broadcasters and develop new markets for the betterment of all.
The concept was underpinned by a game-changing 12-year £6.1 billion guarantee from leading sports marketing agency Infront Sports & Media, backed by Hong Kong-based parent company Wanda Sports. Importantly, ownership of the competition would have been retained by the unions and competition owners without any sale of equity. Infront Sports and Media and Wanda Sports remain fully committed to World Rugby's objectives.
Throughout extensive consultation with unions and the international game’s major stakeholders, World Rugby has demonstrated flexibility and made every effort to provide solutions and reassurance on key areas including the format of the second division, the financial package for relegated teams and key player welfare considerations.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “World Rugby undertook this important project with the best interests of the global game at heart in line with our vision to grow the sport as a game for all. While we are naturally disappointed that a unanimous position on the Nations Championship could not be achieved among our unions, we remain fully committed to exploring alternative ways to enhance the meaning, value and opportunity of international rugby for the betterment of all unions.
“This includes our continued commitment to competition and investment opportunities for emerging nations to increase the competitiveness of the international game with a view to possible Rugby World Cup expansion in 2027.
“I would like to thank all stakeholders for their detailed consideration and engagement, World Rugby’s executive team for their hard work and Infront Sports and Media for their full and ongoing support of our vision to grow rugby’s global footprint.”