The new Super 15 tournament that will be created when Super Rugby expands from the Super 14 to the Super 15 could see an increase in matches that are played in the afternoon in New Zealand.
Historically matches have been played in New Zealand and Australia at night as it allows the matches to be shown after 8 AM in Europe where the bulk of the world’s rugby population lives.
Predominantly Super Rugby matches over the past few years have been played in New Zealand at 7.35pm, with 5.35pm on Saturday the next slot used when there is a cluster of games.
Occasionally on rare occasions where New Zealand hosts four games in one round, the 2.35pm slot has been utilised.
The New Zealand Rugby Players Association are keen to see a greater spread of kick-off times across the weekend cycle when Super 15 begins in 2011.
In the new format there will be another team and there will be more matches so matches will have to be played in the afternoons.
Rob Nichol, who heads the NZRPA, believes that with each side hosting more games in the Super 15 from 2011, there is an opportunity to introduce a variety of kick-off times.
“If each team has eight home games then you could see a mix to offer fans a range of experiences.”
“So you could play a couple of games on Friday nights, a couple on Saturday nights and a couple on Saturday afternoons with maybe Sunday afternoon being used as well.” he told the NZ Herald.
However, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew, is not keen to budge: “The reality is that, as much as we all like the thought of watching rugby in the afternoon with the sun on our backs, it will come with a drop in broadcast revenue.”
“We face a difficult challenge maintaining our income and if it drops then the inevitable consequence is more players heading overseas.”
Tew also points out that in the early days of Super 12 when afternoon rugby was more prevalent, clubs complained that they were being squeezed out by the professionals.
Having submitted the Super 15 restructuring proposal for Super 14 to broadcasters on June 30, Tew says the terms required a formal response to be made within 60 days. “Our broker has been talking to the broadcasters but we have not had an official response yet.”