March 7, 2014
Rugby’s good news... or bad?
For the Herald
The big news for local rugby last week was that an Argentine team will finally be accepted for the annual SANZAR Super Rugby tournament with teams of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia for 2016... if the other countries agree and if contracts (with TV) are profitably renewed at the end of 2015. This would also depend on Argentina continuing to play in the Rugby Championship after that date. So let’s hope for good news then, and not take it all for granted yet.
Doubts arise that at a time when Argentine rugby is joining the elite, the local standard has deteriorated, although this could just be temporary.
Hopes are that a Super Rugby franchise in a professional league would stop players leaving to earn money elsewhere and bring those Argentines in Europe back, especially many who are not regulars at their clubs. But that is not a foregone conclusion either and will depend on the financial rewards.
This year’s Super Rugby League has 15 teams — five each in the three countries mentioned — playing home and away. Three group winners and the winner of a playoff between the other best placed teams in the general table qualify for the semifinals.
Perhaps less good is the news that the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) approved a change of 20 statutes at an Extraordinary General Meeting last Friday with the 26 provincial federations, the main change being to extend the term of president (and his committee) from two years to four. That may be the case at the Argentine Football Association (AFA), but then that entity is hardly one to copy. Presidential terms in leading rugby nations (England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, South Africa and New Zealand) are just one year. The exception is France (four) which Argentina tends to copy. In fact, it is mostly the same crowd which will continue to reign, including influential former Pumas captain Agustín Pichot who this column mentioned a few weeks ago.
This may work or it may not, but better not take the AFA as an example. It will mean more years of amateur officials ruling an increasing professional sport. To be successful, a sport also needs new ideas for improvement all the time, but last week’s news will further widen the gap between the professionals and amateurs supported by the clubs, with an estimated 110,000 players in the country.