Qatar contract changes rugby, beginning with URC

Qatar contract changes rugby, beginning with URC

The success of South African rugby teams depends on having effective travel arrangements.

Given that SA teams often underperformed in Super Rugby, it is no accident that the Stormers and Bulls played in the first United Rugby Championship final.

Although the New Zealand teams were strong, the majority of South African players and coaches would agree that going to Australasia had a crippling impact.

Due to the comparable time zones, travelling to Europe for URC games is significantly more pleasant. However, there is always room for improvement, which is why the Qatar Airways alliance announced on Sunday in Doha will greatly improve the lives of the SA teams.

Ahead of their participation in the Champions Cup in 2022–23, Bulls coach Jake White recently talked about some of the difficulties they had to overcome during the previous season in order to reach Europe at the local URC season launch in Midrand.

“Flying across the globe to get to Europe is not the best option. It’s not ideal to travel in coach, either, White added.

“One of the selling aspects to the group of players was that you wouldn’t be that far away from home that frequently when we flew business class from Super Rugby to Sydney” (by playing in Europe).

“However, we may play here for a week before returning to URC after a week in Exeter” (in Europe). And if you are travelling in economy class and must fly across the globe to get there,

I’m aware that Qatar has agreed to sponsor us with an airline, so hopefully it will be taken care of.

With Qatar Airways’ top-notch Qsuite business-class section—named the best in the world at the 2021 Skytrax World Airline Awards—that issue ought to be resolved at this point.

The Qatar contract will certainly address practical travel issues, but it also has the potential to revolutionise rugby as a sport.

Even the head of European Professional Club Rugby, Anthony Lepage, made a point of discussing the need to expand on the “traditional” rugby market and consider new avenues at the event on Sunday in Doha.

Rugby organisations “have all been functioning in silos for too long… someone feels someone else is doing better than they are,” URC Chief Executive Martin Anayi said. In actuality, professionalisation of the game is still relatively new.

The Qatar cooperation has demonstrated the way, especially in light of where rugby was during the Covid-19 lockout, when SA Rugby alone had to reduce R1.2 billion from their budget.

The ongoing quest for a worldwide rugby calendar often leads to finger-pointing at English and French teams for standing firm on their schedule, but there must be concessions from all parties.

Rugby is a niche sport when looking at its global footprint, but in order for it to survive and grow to become truly popular throughout the world, all parties need to work together and find new solutions by bringing in new partners and ideas – even if it means upsetting the “old farts,” as Will Carling previously put it…

Similar to football and Formula 1, the oval ball game must advance to the point where its top coaches and players may begin to realise their full potential.

»Qatar contract changes rugby, beginning with URC«

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