“Rugby Europe”, the federation which works for emerging countries in the shadow of the Six Nations

“Rugby Europe”, the federation which works for emerging countries in the shadow of the Six Nations

Less than a year from the World Cup in France, the general manager of “Rugby Europe”, Florent Marty, takes stock of the actions carried out by his federation for the small nations of the Old Continent.

Georgia lost against the XV of France in November 2021 in Bordeaux (41-15). Panoramic

The last straight line before the Rugby World Cup organized in less than a year in France (September 8, 2023-October 28, 2023). Of the twenty nations that will participate in the world games, eight are from the Old Continent: there are necessarily the six nations of the Tournament, but also Georgia and Romania. A figure that could climb to nine if Portugal, which still has to play a repechage tournament (with the United States, Kenya and Hong Kong), manages to win its ticket. Nearly half of the qualified teams would therefore come from Europe.

A success that satisfies “Europe Rugby” (formerly Fira, then Fira-EAR in the 1980s), the federation which manages the teams of the Old Continent. For Le Figaro, Florent Marty, the CEO of this federation which has 47 member countries (the youngest being… Kosovo), takes stock of its future projects. “Rugby Europe has long been a machine for organizing competitions, from an administrative point of view: appointing referees, taking care of rankings,” he explains.

And to come back to the development of this structure whose headquarters are based in the 17th arrondissement of Paris: “One of the strategic changes that we have implemented for 2-3 years is to try to develop our products and our audiences. for our high level competitions. We wanted to professionalize our marketing and sales aspect. Before, we did little to develop our audiences and our income. To increase the visibility of its competitions (750 matches, 20 competitions per year), Rugby Europe has signed a partnership with the company Two Circles, a world-leading sports marketing agency in the analysis of data on the behavior of fans in sport. .

Budget increased by 30%

“Our budget has increased by 30% compared to last year. We have developed our commercial revenues, we are developing on digital, continues Florent Marty, who previously worked for NBA Europe. The World Cup is a godsend for us, it will put a focus on Europe. Each time, it boosts the number of licensees regardless of the performance of their national team. We are happy with our development, but there is still a lot to do.”

To gain visibility, a competition was created, the Rugby Europe Super Cup, for teams and franchises from emerging countries. “This is a co-investment by the International Federation (World Rugby) and Rugby Europe, in order to pull rugby up in these countries” with pro or semi-pro teams, explains Florent Marty. Create – for the teams from Germany, Belgium, Spain, Georgia, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Russia – a sort of third European division below the EPCR competitions: the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup, after the abandonment of the Continental Shield, launched in 2014 and then abandoned in 2019.

No promotion-relegation with the Six Nations

The great difficulty for Rugby Europe is to live in the imposing shadow of the Six Nations Tournament. “In terms of clarity for the economic world, it is not easy to navigate between the international federation and the European federation which does not manage the Six Nations, nor the EPCR. It’s not easy, ”recognizes the leader of Rugby Europe. The idea is to advance rugby in these countries. To eventually integrate the Six Nations Tournament? The debate is recurrent, with the chronic poor results of Italy, around a promotion-relegation system, between the Six Nations and the Rugby Europe Championship, often called the Six Nations B Tournament.

But the question does not thrill Florent Marty. “To take this question alone does not make sense. Above all, we must ask ourselves how we build a level 2 that is robust. So that the team that goes down is not penalized. Italy and Georgia are two of our members, we wish the good of both, he underlines. Campaigning for a promotion-relegation does not make much sense. And to continue: “Georgia is not necessarily ready on certain aspects and we know that Italy would suffer enormously from a descent. A more harmonized, more pyramidal system must exist. Today the subject of ascent-descent, taken alone, has no meaning. There is no economic and sporting reality to be able to put it in place. Ultimately, the system must be more coherent and there must be development in countries other than the Six Nations.

New international competitions

Do not skip the steps, therefore. Go step by step. The European federation is rather campaigning for the creation of new international competitions for countries outside the Six Nations. “We are a European body. Surely there are international competitions to be created in the international windows. To leave the format of test matches which are, in the end, friendly matches ”, advances Florent Marty. Like the short-lived League of Nations which was launched during the health crisis, when travel was limited.

Besides that, Rugby Europe organizes rugby 7s competitions on the Old Continent, outside the world circuit. And there, the “small” nations are doing well, quickly managing to compete with the best. The DG of Rugby Europe recalls, for example, that “Spain plays at the highest level in all the competitions in which it is involved. There are as many players in this country, for example, as in Wales. One of the many potentials to be developed in Europe to broaden the base of rugby, too often confined to its historic strongholds.

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