CAPE TOWN – Rugby Australia’s new collective bargaining agreement announced on Wednesday has reignited speculation that Sanzaar could soon be set for a shake-up.
The significant changes in Australia have seen their overall Super Rugby salary cap adjusted to a total of A$5.5-million (R53-million), with the average player receiving A$225,000 (R2.2-million) in 2018.
Besides the 10% pay increase for players, squad sizes have been expanded to up to 40 players. This change is related to the Force's axing from Super Rugby, which has seen the number of professional players in Super Rugby in Australia decrease from 175 to 160.
Following the announcement, highly-respected English newspaper, the Guardian, raises the question whether the new collective bargaining agreement is sustainable over the long term.
The current broadcast agreement with the Sanzaar partners (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina) comes to an end in 2020, and there has been plenty of talk in rugby circles that a global rugby calendar will take shape after that.
Besides competitions potentially being aligned along similar time zones, there could be a drive for them to be played at similar times of the year, while new cross-hemisphere games could come into play.
Already, South African rugby has taken its first foray into northern hemisphere competition, with the Cheetahs and Kings having entered the Pro14 last year.
Should the Sanzaar partners go their separate ways after 2020, it’s expected that Australia and New Zealand will create a trans-Tasman competition, while more South African Super Rugby teams could head to Europe.
It’s already been reported that more than one of the currently remaining Super Rugby franchises already expressed interest to explore new territories when the Cheetahs and Kings’ entry into the Pro14 was being negotiated.
What is ultimately becoming increasingly apparent is the fact that global rugby, and the Sanzaar partnership as we know it, could be set for significant changes when broadcast deal negotiations begin again.