For some the Premiership Rugby (PR) chief executive Mark McCafferty is revolutionising the sport. For others, he is changing it for the worse.
Since he arrived as Chief Executive of the Premier Rugby Association in 2005, McCafferty has continued to evolve the game in England to ensure its survival. An influx of foreign players can hurt the game, as is evident with the English Premier League. The policy to only select players from the domestic competition has certainly plugged the hole, for now. He helped to architect a better relationship in terms of club vs country.
Earlier in the week, reports suggested a competitive match across the Atlantic is in the works. In an interview with English newspaper The Times McCafferty stated he is attempting to promote rugby in the US.
“We have got to recognise that it will build. It is slowly beginning to come through [in the USA]. They have players who are beginning to come through.”
London Irish are reportedly singled out as the main flag-bearer for English club rugby in an attempt to connect with the Irish descendants in America, especially in New York or Boston.
Even though the cost of hosting a Premiership match would be expensive, McCafferty recognises an opportunity to export the game to the US. Firstly, it is a chance to promote the Aviva Premiership to a much larger audience, which may in turn increase interest for the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the inclusion of Sevens in the 2016 Olympics. Secondly, to expand TV coverage and sponsorship for a larger profit.
The likelihood of a club rugby match is not yet confirmed, a new inaugural European competition entitled the ‘European Rugby Champions Cup’ is. The PR chief spearheaded a crusade for change in Europe and challenged the status quo.
On 10 April he tweeted:
New European deal done. Next season will be bigger and better for all.
— Mark McCafferty (@Mark_PremRugby) April 10, 2014
His vision was to architect a “change in the game”. Progress was another keyword of his. A new path forward to deliver more equality for the English sides. Within the equality is the promise of greater wealth for the clubs.
Of course with change not everyone is satisfied. Critics and fans question the qualification process. The Irish are aggrieved 10th placed Connacht Rugby are set to miss out, however second last Treviso enter as the only representative for Italy. On the flip side next season in the Rabo will almost definitely be more exciting due to the regulations of reaching the European Rugby Champions Cup.
Another major development by McCafferty is the broadcasting deal with BT Sport. Since the game went professional Sky Sports obtained the rights to transmit English club rugby. ESPN (UK) started to share coverage in 2009, however in 2012 British Telecoms brokered a ground-breaking deal to telecast the Aviva Premiership for their sports channel. The new contract assured viewers of experiencing rugby in a new light and creating a more accessible sport for newbies. BT Sport provides Television Match Officials (TMOs) for every ground even if the game is not televised. The clubs also gain a larger profit.
From the outside McCafferty’s tireless work is changing rugby in England and Europe for the better. His main agenda is supporting the clubs, while simultaneously fans are benefitting. More profit for the clubs equal lower ticket prices. The policy of only selecting English based players has permitted the national side to grow. Long may it continue.
Dominic Evans, Pundit Arena.