4 Ways to Fix International Rugby League – Part 2

By Daniel Andruczyk

Today I continue my thoughts on how to fix the sport internationally. Yesterday I talked about the player eligibility and also rule unification. Today I talk about the structure of the governing body and also begin to discuss a meaningful international structure.

3. Professionalise the RLIF and structure the sport.

Believe it or not, the RLIF is not a professional organisation and does not even have a permanent headquarters. The overall structure of the organisation is quite “all over the place” as well. At the moment the RLIF is run by the administrators of the ARL, RFL, NRL and NZRL, we all know who they are. Now please someone tell me there is not a conflict of interest here. Don’t get me wrong I am sure they are all great people, but surely you cannot run a national body and the International body with some sort of conflict there and leaning towards your own organisation or nation? Three out of the four members all have domestic teams in the same competition!

The RLIF has to be run as an independent body, with people that have absolutely no relationship to the sport in any other country in any way. You can still have an Australian, Kiwi, Serbian, Frenchman or Englishman run it, its just they cannot also run the ARL/NRL, NZRL, SRL, FFRXIII or RFL at the same time.

Secondly there needs to be a second tier structure that represents the various regions. That allows them to run their regional competitions as well as have a voice in voting with the RLIF. This means setting up regional federation such as the one Europe has at the moment, the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF). It handles the employment of development officers, the promotion of the sport through its region, sponsorship and organises major European competitions such as the European Nations Cup, Euro Shield, Euro Bowl and Euro Med Challenge. Similar federations must be in place for the other main regions. In the Pacific it would be the Rugby League Pacific Federation (RLPF) and the Atlantic region would be the Rugby League Atlantic Federation (RLAF).

IRLStructure

The figure above shows clearly how the structure would work. The RLIF would have four permanent, paid, full time members; a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurer and Member. You then have members of the various nations vote in a board of the regional federations, these would be for four year terms. The heads of these Federations then would then sit in on the RLIF meetings and vote as well. They have the opinions and voices of their respective nations and regions and would voice them to the permanent RLIF members. With 7 voters a motion would pass with a simple majority.

The scheduling and control of international matches would become much easier and structured as well. One-off tests such as the ANZAC Test would be controlled by the nations involved sanctioned by the Regional Federation and RLIF. Any regional tournament such as the European Nations Cup would be run by the regional federation, RLEF in this instance. Any cross regional tournament like the World Cup or 4 Nations would be run exclusively by the RLIF. Each nations and federation would be responsible for pushing and promoting and driving the money revenue for their respective tournaments, this way no one is just purely dependent on one tournament like the World Cup to generate all the money… if we do then we will always be limited by how far we can go.

If we are to make any serious inroads for the future I feel that a good chunk of the $5 million generated from the 2008 World Cup needs to be spent on professionalising the RLIF. Pay people to actually make money for the sport, and make back and more than the $5 million that is there!

So, solution three: Establish and independent and full-time and paid RLIF board and headquarters. Have regional governing bodies set up as well to run and take care of their regional issues and also to give a voice to the RLIF and vote.

4. International Schedule.

Last and probably the most important is the scheduling of international tournament and matches. In the end, for everything else to work there has to be something to work for. In 2007 Richard Lewis unveiled the RLIF’s 10 year plan which included 4 Nations matches and one off regional championships. This year we see a Pacific Nations Cup being played to decide the 4th team for next years 4 Nations, but is it just me or does it seem to slapped together ad-hoc a bit? A European Nations Cup is also being played, as a forerunner to next years ENC where the winner goes into the 2011 4 Nations tournament.

In reality only 5-6 teams will get anything meaningful out of this in the lead up to the 2013 World Cup. As it stands I feel 100% that the RLIF, international rugby league in general has completely missed the boat to do something truly great and I fear we have to wait till after 2013 to again have a chance of doing something. Thus I now propose my alternate International schedule. Its a four year cycle that provides meaningful matches and tournaments for every single nation that plays rugby league. There is no glass ceiling, from the lowest of the qualifiers a nation can reach the dizzy heights of a World Cup, IF they are good enough. For the players, what ever country they choose, there will be meaningful matches as incentives for them to stick with them, knowing that they can play the best of the best for at lest two out of the four years if not more! Countries with aspirations to host tournaments and a World Cup can bid to host tournaments, start small with regional tournaments and work eventually to hosting a WC, show what they can do.

The Four Year Cycle

Let me say this from the beginning. In my opinion the traditional tours need to be scrapped. They need to die and be confined to the annals of history. If ever there was a better way to stifle the international game and help stop its spread, the tour is it. Tours are the thing that makes players choose or want to swap countries, that only a select few can do it and everyone wants to play the best, thus nations like Fiji, Samoa, Wales will always play second fiddle to Australia, New Zealand, England and France when it comes to player choice. HAVING said that, on all the forums it is plainly clear that many, many, many fans still hold a spot for the tour and want them to still be part of international rugby league, thus I have made a schedule that fits in tours in the four year tournaments cycle. If there is ever a reason for the tours to go then they can very easily be dropped without any impact on the rest of the scheduled tournaments.

Below I will give a brief summary of what I propose year by year and then I will go into more detail about the structure of each tournament.

Year 1: This is the first year after a World Cup. This is the year where regional championship qualifiers would be played. I envisage three regional Championships; Pacific Nations Cup, European Nations Cup and Atlantic Nations Cup. For most of these it will require a two step qualifying process to the finals. This will be shown and talked about later.

It is also in this year that the traditional tours would happen, with 4 year cycles as well and every 8 years having the tours alternate, again will be shown later.

Year 2: The Regional Championship Finals. So here I see the European Nations Cup (ENC) with eight teams that qualify, the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) with six qualified teams and the Atlantic Nations Cup (ANC) with four teams. Each championships will have semi finals, a 3/4 play off and a final. Here is what is important. The teams that make the semis progress to either a 6 Nations (RLIF Cup) or a 4 Nations (Federation shield) in the next year.

The secret for these tournaments to work is that the all the best nations participate, in Europe England and France play in the ENC, in the PNC Australia and New Zealand are involved and I mean the full squads not a Junior Kangaroos or an England A. Nations want to play the best of the best and this is one of the stages where they can get a regular crack at the best.

Continuing, the two finalists of the ENC and PNC go through to the RLIF Cup. The third placed nation of the ENC and PNC and the winner of the ANC go into a three way qualifier for the last two spots of the RLIF Cup. The fourth spot of the ENC and PNC and the runner up of the ANC go into the Federation Shield and the team to come third from the qualifier also goes to the Federation Shield.

World Cup Qualification also can start for nations that are not in the Regional Championships. I will go into more detail later.

Year 3: The RLIF Cup and Federation Shield are played in this year. The RLIF Cup has 2 groups of three and the Federation shield one group of 4. This means that in each tournament there are 7 Matches including the final. Thus profits can be maximised by having the Federation Shield matches played as the openers to the RLIF Cup matches. So fans in a host Nation would see 10 nations playing full internationals and on any one night up to four of them.

At this point it is where the incentives become obvious. The countries in the RLIF Cup get automatic entry to the World Cup*. The two finalists of the Federation Shield also get automatic entry to the World Cup. The other two nations from the Federation Shield go into a repechage qualifying round for a spot in the World cup. Thus you can see from the beginning of the regional qualifiers the incentive for any country to do well is to that you can win an easy entry to the World Cup by being consistently good.

With eight out of the twelve World Cup spots taken up, the remaining 4 belong to a repechage qualifier, one Pacific Nation and two European Nations. This is going by numbers that Europe has more nations playing. However for teams that just miss out, i.e. the next best eight play in a second tier International Cup.

Year 4: The World Cup and International Cup. The World Cup would take on a format of four groups of three teams. Each team playing each other once. The top two teams of each group go into the quarter finals.

In the International Cup there would be two groups of four teams, with each nation in their group playing each other once. The top two teams from each group go into a quarter finals with the bottom teams of the World Cup Groups. The bottom four teams of the IC play semi finals for the World Plate.

Again we see that with 12 games in the group stages of the World Cup and 12 Matches in the IC, the IC matches can be played as openers to the WC matches, thus maximising profits. The finals would be the same with quarters, semis, 3/4 play off and final also having not only the WC games but also the IC and WP matches. This will be discussed in great detail later on.

4YearCycle

Thus its easy to see that from the word go, from the regional qualifiers that carrot of a World Cup spot is dangled in front of all nation. If a team is good enough to go from qualifiers, win through to the Regional Semis, through to the RLIF Cup or Federation shield they can get to qualify for the World Cup and along the way get to play the best teams from around the world on a regular basis. Thus a team like Serbia if good enough could play France and England in the ENC, then France, England, Australia, New Zealand in the RLIF Cup and then the same teams potentially in the World Cup! Now this is exactly what players and countries have been wanting! Regular, meaningful matches against the best teams and players in the world.

* The World Cup would have 12 places.

… Saturday Part 3 of “4 Ways to Fix International Rugby League.”

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11 Responses to “4 Ways to Fix International Rugby League – Part 2”

  1. wain says:

    druzik,
    great as always…while I probably dont agree with all of your tournament ideas…I believe the professionalism of the RLIF, and the clear and unbiased path to WC qualification is a must. I agree with the Atlantic group and would also love to see Asian and African groups as needed. Its so important that those areas would then be overseen by their ‘group’ who are ultimately only responsible to the RLIF…not a domestic competion such as the NRL who likes to run the show.

    • druzik says:

      Fair enough wain, what about the tournaments don’t you agree with?

      Yeah, look a international sport needs to have a professional body, Everyone on there despite having a salary from other bodies in the sport are basically voulenteers, which dont get me wrong is great the sport needs them, but they can only take it so far as amateurs. Just look at the RLIF website… its embarrasing at the moment… how hard can it be to pay some upcoming web designer or someone $50-60k a year just to develop and maintain that site?

      Your comments on the African and Asian group ar valid, but eventually… at the moment I set up my ideas and system based around what we have, but there is no reason why down the track when there are more African, American and Asian teams that they all cant have their own path ways.

  2. Jon says:

    Pretty much what I’ve been saying for a few years now. Just two things. Firstly I think we have to be looking at establishing strong and competitive domestic competitions in countries like the USA and Jamaica before they can take part in international competitions. Secondly, and this is something you touched on, people still want to see tours. It will be hard to convince the average rugby league fan that GB, Australia, NZ will no longer come to their country and for a test series.

    • druzik says:

      Well locally I think Jamaica and the USA do have a couple pretty good comps, we say this year that the JDF and Sharks dominance was broken by Vauxhal and in the USA for the first time in years the Bull and Warriors wernt in the Final.

      Again I dont see why we have to exclude teams just because they dont seem to be fashionable, the system I have come up, and will discuss in more detail on Saturday, give I think a clear and fair path for those Atlantic teams who probably in the near future may not be as strong as the European and Pacific teams, but they still need to have a chance to Gauge themselves.

      As for the tours, yes people want to see them, but I feel only for the nostalgia of them… I should have mentioned, that personally I too like the old tours but for the greater good, for the development of a truly global sport they can’t be there, I had to get past my nostalgia and look at the greater good (as I will also discuss about State of Origin at some point)… but I had to compromise and that is my compromise. NOw why do tours stiffle the international game? Simple, only the big four rich teams can afford to go and do them, which means that only those 4 teams will ever be the best of the best. Players will want to play against the best of the best so will always choose to go out for them and not the other nations. We see this even now with the 4 Nations with guys like Brough coming out and swaping from Scotland to England, and their reasons were precisely that, that they want to play the best of the best and that mean playing for England against Australia and New Zealand and France. This is what we have to get away from it.

  3. pablo-13 says:

    An interesting read and a nice diagram for international competitions! I really like the progression teams make towards the WC. Whether it is realistic right now could only really be answered by the RLIF as certain countries bring in more tv money than others, as one example.

    I might insert an extra play-off to reach the WC qualifiers for teams knocked out in year 1. Those teams seem to be left out a bit. The more successful teams are rewarded with the main route to WC qualification but there should perhaps be a small chance for those that didn’t perform well in Y1.

    On international structure:
    I think you’ve gone wrong here. You say the, “figure shows clearly how the structure would work” – except it doesn’t really. It doesn’t reflect who has actual power in rugby league. You might argue that it shouldn’t, that it should be an structure for equals, but for a sport like RL especially, I don’t think it would work.

    Power in rugby league, I reckon, comes from bringing in money and controlling players. The RFL have the UK and France sown up and the ARL/NRL have the same for Australia and NZ. They bring in most of rugby league’s money and organisational skills (such as they are) and control the world’s best players through their premier competitions. If we’re honest, the RFL and ARL/NRL are more than just the most powerful rugby leagues, they are the ones propping most of the others up in various ways. For now, nothing is going to happen without their agreement.

    I support there being some permanent RLIF staff but working under a manager who reports to the RLIF board, not creating a new power(less) faction to run the international game. I’d also set up some RLIF working groups and committees for areas of the sport like rules, discipline, eligibility that report findings to the board.

    I think your proposed structure would add a layer of bureaucracy in regional organisations, perhaps guided by FIFA, that isn’t needed for RL. The RLIF (or the ARL in their name) have organised the Pacific Cup, so why have a RLPF? You want to make the RLIF official, salaried and powerful but then remove competitions from its remit.

    The RLEF exists now. I’m not sure the exact reasons that led to it being distinct from the RLIF but it’s probably down to the Aussie-influenced RLIF being on the other side of the world and giving the go-ahead to the RFL to do its own thing in its own backyard. Plus potential EU funding.

    I think adding an Atlantic and Pacific organisation would either be in name only, which we both agree the RLIF is a little bit like now and not good, or add a load of blazers and political wrangles. We’ll end up with people saying “the WC should go to each in turn, you know, like FIFA does!” when RL is an entirely different reality and needs to survive and build based on merit. Cliché alert: The world is becoming more connected, there is no need for more regional blocs in rugby league.

    druzik, thanks for showing your ideas and thinking of the big issues for the future of international RL. I’ve read my post back and it might come across as a bit aggressive but it’s not intended that way, I enjoy topics like this and just wanted to get my thoughts out.

    • druzik says:

      Thanks for your reply pablo.

      OK so a few things I think I shoudl try and clear up. I dont think that the level of beauracracy would increase too much with a professional RLIF. Look at the moment no one really in the RLIF knows whats going on… you have the tournaments set up etc… but they seem to be done on the fly. The reason for setting up the regional federations is that they can have a level of independence from the RLIF in terms of funding, that they are no soley reliant on the RLIF for providing them money every 4 years.

      As an example, if there was no RLEF that is self funding to a point, then the RLIF would have had to make a choice of spending $1million on the Pacific nations or $1 million on the European Nations. As it with the RLEF able to fund and host the ENC the RLIF was able to go and fund the PNC. Now imagine if there was a RLPF that was able to fund and take care of the PNC… then the RLIF could spend its resources on realy making an outstandfing 4 Nations product.

      See the regional federation dont take away power from the RLIF, they still would be aswerable to the judgements of rules and eligibility to the RLIF but they would have a level of autonomy whehn it came to money and regional tournaments … bit like the way state and federal governments are set up. Now the RLIF still would be responsible for cros regional tournaments like the World Cup, International Cup, RLIF Cup and Federation shield, 4 tournaments for them to drive their profits, but the regional tournaments would be sorted by the regional federation, where the “powerful” nations can have a level of control I suppose. But at the top, there is just too much conflict of interest at the moment, the other nations I dont think are getting a fair shot… the international game is still all over the place with no real clear structure.

      As for you WC Qualifier comments, yes, any teams that doent qualify in Year 1 for the regional finals, then would begin their WC campaigns in Year 2 and continue in year 3.

      As for your post, its not aggressive at all, it was at least a good thought out post and appreciate your input. With dialogue like this in the end you can always reach compromises when it comes to things… as I said with the tours, eve though I think they should be done with… there is enough support out there that I made room from them (originally I never had room for them) I have one of my original ideas and simulations I did back in 2007 here.

      I guess my ultimate aim with this post is to start to try and get people to really think outside the box when it come to the sport… that it has to be just more than the NRL and ESL.

  4. C.T.SANDERS says:

    Come to thick about it daniel, rugby league is one big embarrassment.The rlif only think about 2 things and you know what they are.You can taik until you’re blue in the face.nothing will change until you go to america.Apart from you and Superpaulia no one is interested in rl expansion.

    • druzik says:

      There are other that want the sport top be bigger on the international scale, but there are unfortunately obstacles that need to be overcome, slowly but they are getting there. All that anyone can do is keep fighting the good fight.

  5. C.T.SANDERS says:

    Whatever

  6. C.T.SANDERS says:

    Because the irlf are only interested in 2 things and 2 things only and that is the nrl and superleague.The rest is immaterial and we need neutral people on it which you and ya mate superpaulia suggested some time ago otherwise the sport would never ever go ahead.If you want your beloved tournaments,your hobby horse, then you need a world cup every 2 years without fail, but in the long term they will not make money for the international game and we can’t have tournaments without resources.It’s a business not a charity and some of the island nations plus the nzmaoris are too busy relying on handouts all the time because they are too lazy to get off their arses instead of doing the hard work of fund raising for themselves.For instance serbia raise their own money without asking for hand outs all the time and they have come a long way in such a short time and unlike the island nations they have no players playing in either the nrl or sl.They are the role model that every nation should be following because they go about their work with the minimum of fuss and aren’t spolit or favoured.Paid tv and murdoch and his mates are only interested in professional clubs and nothing else which only bennefits the pockets of all the individual owners of all the privately owned nrl and sl franchises.That’s why rugby league has no resources unlike other sports because the national bodies like the arl,rfl and the nzrl have no control over the professional franchises.Simple.

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