Whilst not a decision-making forum, today’s World Rugby Professional Game Forum provided the initial platform for national unions, international and professional club competitions and players to exchange frank views and consider immediate and long-term calendar reform in line with the guiding core principles of recognising the needs of the international and domestic game and enhancing player welfare.
With the global COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacting the 2020 rugby calendar and union and club finances, all parties recognised the need to agree a compromise solution that enables both disrupted professional club and international competitions to be completed this year.
In the absence of full alignment, further information sharing and discussion will be undertaken with all parties regarding the viability of proposed adjustments to the 2020 international release weekends stipulated in Regulation 9 that will enable postponed and other international matches to be played in an adjusted window from October, whilst enabling the completion of existing club competitions. The final decision on 2020 will be confirmed by vote of the World Rugby Council on 30 June following consideration and recommendation by the World Rugby Executive Committee.
There was also commitment to further detailed commercial and player welfare modelling in full collaboration with the club game to better assess the viability and attractiveness, for all parties, of a potential new ongoing global release period of October/November from 2021, replacing the July window.
All stakeholders believe that meaningful reform of the international calendar is necessary in a much-changed post COVID-19 environment to revitalise the global game and deliver much-needed alignment between international and club rugby with fewer overlaps and enhanced player rest periods.
Crucially, if managed appropriately, the proposed long-term calendar reform will enable meaningful pathways for emerging nations on a global and regional scale and the development of a global international women’s competition model with defined windows that do not overlap with the men’s competitions.
World Rugby Professional Game Forum attendees: World Rugby, The Six Nations, SANZAAR, International Rugby Players, British and Irish Lions, EPCR, PRO 14, LNR, PRL, Top League and Professional Game Committee unions: Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Japan, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales.