Bill Sweeney: RFU chief executive backs proposed Club World Cup

Dylan Coetzee

Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Bill Sweeney believes that a Club World Cup could encourage a Ryder Cup-like rivalry between the northern and southern hemispheres.

The proposed structure would see eight teams from the Premiership, Top 14 and United Rugby Championship, seven sides from the southern hemisphere and one Japanese outfit competing every four years starting in 2025.

Strong potential

Sweeney is on board with the idea, and clubs are supposedly interested in the potential the competition shows.

“We actually welcome it, we think it’s a very good idea,” he said.

“I’ve been heavily involved and have full transparency around how that’s developing.

“There is still a long way to go with it, it’s not a completely done deal yet, but in terms of direction as a union we certainly support it and I know the clubs are very keen to get it done.”

Sweeney used the July internationals as an example of the rugby displayed and believes it will be exciting for fans and general game awareness.

“It just will heighten excitement and awareness around the game,” he said. “Fans are looking for new formats, new things to talk about.

“This summer there was a lot of narrative around the north-south rivalry, it almost felt like a Ryder Cup situation towards the end there, in terms of would we win that series as a northern hemisphere.

“There seems to be more conversation around that and (the proposed tournament) just adds to that in terms of who has the best clubs in the world, the best club setup – is it the north or the south?

“Seeing some of those club powerhouses compete against each other, I think the fans look forward to that.”

Not adding more games to the schedule

The games would not add to the congested calendar but instead, fit into the current schedule.

“It sits in the same window as the EPCR Champions and Challenge Cup, so we’re not adding additional weekends to the calendar which is one of the critical challenges you have in rugby, you just can’t add on additional match weekends,” he said.

“The sense was that doing it every two years would be too much proliferation.

“Allow it to settle down, give it time and space to develop. At this stage having it every four years was the better option.

“There were discussions around 2024, 2025, where does it sit? Having it in the middle of two World Cups is probably the best way to go.

“At this stage once every four years is the optimal solution in the context of a global calendar.

“But everything is up for re-evaluation and we’re still having these conversations around the global calendar.”

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