Rugby Union


ACT Brumbies confident ARU broadcast deal will cover losses in Super Rugby

The ACT Brumbies are satisfied the financial reward of a new broadcast deal will offset the hole in their budget when they lose one home game in a new 18-team, four-conference Super Rugby structure from 2016.

Super Rugby will be overhauled in two years, with an extra team from South Africa, a team from Argentina and a potential Asian club to join the current franchises in a structure ARU chief executive Bill Pulver described as "unquestionably the best outcome for rugby in Australia".

The radical transformation will mean Australian teams play one less home game on a two-year cycle as well as playing against all five New Zealand teams in a 15-game season.

The Brumbies had been reluctant to commit to the proposal, due to the prospect of losing up to $500,000 a year on the gate because of less home games.

Pulver met with Australian chief executives on Thursday to detail the plan and said there was "comfort" the new model would generate increased finances. The ARU is reportedly chasing a $40million-a-year broadcast deal in Australia.

"We believe the contribution from the new broadcast deal will be better than what we've currently got," Brumbies chief executive Doug Edwards said.


"We could have lost maybe $500,000, but we think the extra games in the competition, and a team in Asia, will lead to more opportunities.

"It's the best model and the extra content will give us the financial increase to offset the loss of home games. But there's still bit of work to be done."

Competition changes include:

  • A South African conference – comprising six South African teams, a team from Argentina and another, likely from Asia – which will be split into two conferences of four teams each.
  • All Australian teams will play all New Zealand teams each season.
  • 135 regular-season matches, up from 120 matches, with an expanded eight-team finals series, made up of five teams from the Australasian group and three from the South African group.
  • Australian teams will play all teams from one of the South African Conferences each season.
  • Each team will play 15 regular season games compared to 16 matches in the current structure – eight home and seven away, or vice versa over a two-year cycle.
  • All four conference winners will automatically advance to the finals, plus the next three highest-ranked teams in the Australasian group and the next best team from the South African group.

Australian clubs and the ARU are pushing for the last team in the competition to be based in Asia – either Singapore or Japan – but the licence is being put to tender.

Super Rugby officials are about to start negotiating a new broadcast deal. Trying to secure games on free-to-air is part of the talks.

Pulver was confident the deal would secure enough funds to help cash-strapped Australian clubs.

"[Losing home games] clearly was one of the issues [teams] were concerned about," Pulver said.

"Compensation needs to come by way of a broadcasting agreement which achieves sufficient revenue to distribute funds to the Super Rugby clubs to satisfy their financial needs.

"[In South Africa and New Zealand] there was a real desire to reduce the amount of games being played. To compensate for home and away derbies for every Australian team ... you'll play every New Zealand team.

"That's a very attractive option. There are also eight teams in the finals series instead of six [currently], so there are swings and roundabouts."

It's likely two South African teams will host finals given they will have the strongest sides in two conferences.

It has been traditionally hard for Australian and New Zealand teams to travel to South Africa and win finals matches, although the Brumbies beat the Pretoria Bulls in a semi-final last year.

South African teams are yet to win a game in Australia or New Zealand this year.

"It's about trying to strike the right balance and that's one that doesn't show any preference to the key countries. I'm delighted with the outcome," Pulver said.

"Finals are very lucrative, that's where you make a lot of money and get great TV ratings."