The number of guaranteed Welsh derbies in the Pro12 for each Welsh region "is set to be cut from six to four as part of the radical competition overhaul" due to be announced in the coming week, according to Delme Parfitt of WALES ONLINE. Pro12 execs "are expected to announce" a two-conference system which will see seven teams in each with the addition of South African sides the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings. It will "effectively then become" the Pro14. Because each conference cannot have more than two teams from the same country, the Welsh regions are "to be separated down the middle," with the Scarlets and Cardiff Blues in Conference A and the Ospreys and Newport Gwent Dragons in Conference B. It means the overall number of Welsh derbies over the course of the ordinary campaign "will reduce by a third, from 12 to eight matches." With speculation that TV and sponsorship money, "once the South African teams come on board," will be worth £10M ($13.1M), "any loss of revenue because of fewer derbies looks set to be more than offset" (WALES ONLINE, 7/16). The BBC reported despite being "set to play in a European league," the Kings and Cheetahs are "keen to remain based in South Africa" rather than the U.K. There "has been a suggestion they could play some of their home matches" in the U.K., with Saracens' Allianz Arena "mooted as a potential venue" (BBC, 7/14).
Events and Attractions
An offer by Formula 1 owner Liberty Media to take over the running of the British Grand Prix "will be rejected by Silverstone," according to Bob McKenzie of the SUNDAY TIMES. The American media company "found itself embroiled in the traditional summer sport of keeping the British race on the calendar." Liberty Media, frustrated at the British Racing Drivers' Club's decision to activate a break clause in its contract to stage the British GP in the build-up to Sunday's race, "offered to run the event for five years" if it is "given the circuit free for three weeks." The company "might even be prepared to wipe out the race debts but the BRDC is expected to decline Liberty Media's offer" as it said that it would lose £20,000 ($26,200) per day under the arrangement. However, "the gamble on using the break clause could backfire if Liberty Media does not turn out to be as sympathetic to the Silverstone cause as the BRDC believes." BRDC Chair John Grant described running the event as "ruinously expensive," but F1 CEO Chase Carey "appears puzzled that a circuit that attracted 350,000 customers last year, one of the best in F1, cannot break even." Carey said, "I don’t understand some of their [Silverstone] claims about their economics, particularly when I look at our business in other places. The people who run a good race seem to have a different picture than they are painting." Liberty Media will not reduce its fee "as that would create a precedent." So the BRDC will have to try to persuade the company to "open more commercial opportunities to provide income streams, which is currently restricted almost entirely to ticket sales" (SUNDAY TIMES, 7/16).
The Irish Rugby Football Union will spend €1.5M ($1.7M) to "deliver the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland in August," bringing total spend on women’s representative rugby to over €3.6M ($4.1M), according to John O'Sullivan of the IRISH TIMES. The union "will be hoping" that it is a precursor for winning the rights to host the '23 men’s equivalent, a decision that will be announced in November. The total cost of the Women’s Rugby World Cup is "expected to come in just over" €4M ($4.6M), with supplementary funding being provided by World Rugby, the Irish government and council funding, partnerships, ticket revenues and sponsorship. In addition to the €1.5M invested in WRWC17, funding to the women’s program increased by 25% this season from over €1.7M ($2M) to in excess of €2.1M ($2.4M). A further 25% increase in funding for the women’s program has been budgeted for the '17-18 season (IRISH TIMES, 7/14).