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Premiership back season shake-up
ESPN Staff
July 11, 2013
Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty, Premiership Rugby press briefing, Copthorne Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand, October 14, 2011
Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has welcomed calls to move the northern hemisphere season © Getty Images

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has welcomed a call to delay the northern hemisphere season by a month in a bid to develop an integrated global rugby calendar.

The International Rugby Players' Association (IRPA) has tabled the proposal that would see the domestic season run from October to June with the summer tours being staged in July. The Super Rugby season would be completed before the mid-year international window while the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship would both remain in their current place in the calendar.

"I applaud the players' association for putting it on the table and we feel there should be some urgent discussions. This is a unique opportunity to get some alignment between the north and the south," McCafferty told PA Sport.

"It would mean we have an alignment with the end of the Super Rugby season and that might create some opportunities as well. If that (a World Cup Championship) was on the table, and it is one of the possibilities that would open up, you could look at doing that in the closing weeks of the season in June."

The proposal has also received a favourable welcome from SANZAR, the organisers of Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship. Chief executive Greg Peters told the Herald Sun newspaper: "The idea of moving June to July, in a SANZAR context, certainly holds a lot of appeal, for a lot of reasons. We could complete the Super Rugby season without a break, which is something in an ideal world we would want to do.

"Then you would move straight into the international program, have a short break, the Rugby Championship, short break, and then the Spring Tours. We would certainly be interested in sitting down with the northern unions, and getting their views about whether it would work. And obviously we are interested in the views of the players associations as well."

The IRPA is meeting the International Rugby Board this week to discuss their proposal for a more integrated global season, which has been tabled now with the intention of being introduced in 2015-16 season when the new southern hemisphere television contracts kick in.

McCafferty added: "A number of the clubs over the years have expressed commercial difficulties with the early weeks of September so a move by a few weeks would assist them," McCafferty said.

"For broadcasters such as BT Sport, to have more of our products in June is a real advantage because the domestic football season has finished. It seems to be one of those times where things are falling into place. From 2015, Wimbledon is moving to the first two weeks of July. The first Ashes Test is only starting now. The Open golf doesn't start until next week.

"We would be playing more rugby in better weather and that is an attraction for us. Everyone knows the competition is probably at its strongest post the Six Nations. The other big plus for us is that if it was brought in 2016 it would alleviate some of the pressure of the Rugby World Cup season.

"That will create an awful lot of pressure in the English league, the RaboDirect and the Top 14. There will be a lot of midweek games and overlaps for internationals. If the June window is moved to July it would relieve that pressure. That is a big plus for northern hemisphere leagues and why we should take a serious look at it, while there is an opportunity."

If an agreement was reached, McCafferty believes it would be significant step towards a fully-integrated global season. "It is definitely one of those moments why we have to try and advance things," he said. "If you can align the end of season between the two hemispheres and you have the international windows aligned in November and June then the only difference between the hemispheres is the timing of the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship.

"At some point in the future that is a discussion for the unions as to whether they look at any change. I genuinely think if we don't act it will be a real missed opportunity because we don't have situations very often when you can make a significant step forward on the global season structure."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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