Rugby World Cup opening press conference overshadowed by mooted Six Nations investment deal
Three days ahead of the Rugby World Cup's opening ceremony and match on Friday, governing body chiefs were quizzed on financial developments on the other side of the globe regarding the Six Nations.
Members of the tournament organisers joined World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont and CEO Brett Gosper at Tokyo's Nippon Seinenkan Hotel, where the main media centre was based, to talk up the 44-day rugby feast which kicks off when hosts Japan face Russia in Scotland's Pool A.
There has been renewed reports that Six Nations matches could be shown on paid-for TV channels in the future amid reports a private equity firm, CVC, has agreed a "significant" share, reported to be 15 per cent of the the world's oldest championship, who have said to have entered into "an exclusive period of negotiation".
Each of the Six Nations unions could take a slice of a windfall in exchange for partially surrendering control of the tournament - worth more than £300 million seeing the firm acquire 15 per cent of the business as well as leading to some matches disappearing from terrestrial channels, although a commitment will reportedly be made to retain free-to-air broadcasting "in some capacity".
Amazon Prime has been named as one potential broadcaster, after securing a deal to show coverage of the ATP Tour
CVC owned Formula 1 between 2006 and 2017, moved the sport from ITV to Sky Sports but were criticised by team bosses at the time and their interest, of in the Six Nations first came to light in March of this year, when it was believed CVC was seeking a 30 per cent share, after the unions - England, France, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales - had been in talks for more than two years about pooling their commercial interests and voted by block vote against the governing body's World League plans, with the prospect of potential Six Nations relegation a major concern for unions like Scotland.
In Tokyo today, Gosper said World Rugby would be monitoring the situation closely to ensure rugby authorities' "influence was not usurped" and that there were "a couple of watch-outs and concerns".
Getting back to the primary reason for today's event, Gosper added "all the ingredients are in place" for 2019 Japan to be a tremendous success and the most competitive in the 32-year history of the Rugby World Cup.
Japan RWC 2019 organising committee chairman Fujio Mitarai said "we have pulled out all the stops" and that the goal was to fill all 48 matches as the first Asian hosts are enthused by an event that will see half a million rugby fans visiting the land of the rising sun from overseas.
Cultural differences were touched on and predicted to be negotiated smoothly. The drinking culture in Japan is vastly different from Europe and the Antipodes but any concerns of beer shortages were laughed off by Beaumont who said: "Never underestimate the ability of rugby fans to seek out a beer. They're a resilient bunch."
The issue surrounding tattoos was also raised, something which is stigmatised in Japan due to its association with the Yazuka organised crime gangs, but widely worn by many rugby players around the globe, either culturally or for fashion reasons.
Japanese organisers insisted they hoped that this would be addressed in a sense of mutual respect on all sides.
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