The expansion or change in the format of the Super 14 is unlikely to be implemented next year but when the tournament is expanded it is likely that it will be revamped to include geographic conferences that will create more local derbies.
The Geographic conference system means that teams within a country will play each other more which means more local derbies and that is likely to get heavy backing from the TV networks.
Teams would play each other in their home country and progress out of their geographic conference or pool for lack of a better word to an international stage that would be contested between the three nations and then a top six play off series.
According to the NZ Herald SANZAR are now fixed on a 15 team format, therefore a Super15 where the teams will play each other once before they head overseas to take on the top teams of the other nations.
However NZRU boss Steve Tew told the Sunday News that there are unlikely to be changes to the Super Rugby next year.
“We all would have liked to have had change this year but it proved to be too difficult inside Sanzar and we think that’s probably where it will end up in 2010,” Tew said.
“I wouldn’t discount anything just as yet, but it’s looking less likely.”
The TV deal with News Ltd runs out at the end of 2010 and having to strike a new agreement for 2011 will be the catalyst for change.
“We’ve got to be in the market talking to our partners by June of this year, so that’s the deadline,” Tew told the Sunday News.
“We’ll have to have settled on a number of options that we believe are worth putting to the broadcasters to see how they value them.”
SANZAR are contractually obliged to present a new proposal to broadcast partners by June 30 this year, the conference system is the option being pursued as months of work have been put into researching its viability.
They feel that the idea of using the geographic conference system will appeal to TV broadcaster which will be imperative in the current global downturn.
SkyTV’s chief executive in New Zealand John Fellet says that he has not yet received a formal of how the new competition will be structured but his network would welcome a format that provides more games within New Zealand.
“I can’t think of any other sporting competition in the world where they have so many time zones,” said Fellet of Super 14.
“That has got to have some affect on the wear and tear of the players. So from my point of view, the more that is in my time zone, the more I like it.”
In previous downturns subscriptions have stayed steady or even increased with many families taking the view that they will cut spending on going out and spend more time at home.
Last week, despite the tough economic climate, the Guinness Premiership in England negotiated a five percent in their new broadcasting deal with BSkyB in the UK.
This was a positive sign that even with the credit crunch, the value of TV rights for sports was not taking a hit.
“All those indicators are encouraging,” Tew said.
“Talking to Sky, they remain very confident about their business model and the importance of rugby to it.”
“We certainly like sports,” said Sky’s Fellet, “and the Sanzar deal has worked very well for us during the last 15 years and I don’t see any reason why it won’t continue to work well.”
On another note it has been reported, mostly in the Australian media, that the South Africans were reluctant to expand the Super 14, but Tew says that this was not the case.
“All three countries have got their own drivers. We have a different set of circumstances to Australia and South Africa are different to the two of us.
“In a joint venture like this, it takes a bit of time to find the appropriate middle ground and we’re still working our way through that.