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).


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.


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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