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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

[Sport] Super 16 and Beyond!

O.k. Here is my plan for a Super 16, SANZAR are you listening? Good, because this is what you should have done.

1. Four expansion teams.
One team from Japan, one combined team from the Pacific Islands and one from Australia. The fourth team can either come from South America or Japan.

Considering that this year the three Australian teams won (on average) 5.66 games each, the four South African teams 3.25 games each while the five New Zealand teams won 6.8 games each. Do the Aussie and SA unions think that spreading the talent further will help or hinder their teams’ chances?

So why have I said to include a team from Australia. Australia is a huge television market and this still about making money. This is the reason the Japan is such a good idea they are mad about sport over there (this is the same reason they should get the Rugby World Cup, but that’s by-the-by).

It is 11,550kms between Capetown and Auckland. It is 10,337kms between Auckland and Buenos Aires and only 8,837kms between Auckland and Tokyo. So travelling time is not an argument.

2. Get rid of the dumb bonus points.
Order the standings by winning percentage (i.e. number of wins divided by number of games played). Settle tiebreaks on the table by looking at who beat who during the regular season or if this doesn’t work (see below) look at points-differential. If it is still a deadlock, look at number of tries scored and then number of penalties conceded.

3. Remove the Round Robin tournament
Currently the Super 12 runs for a 12 week regular season and a two week post season, this probable long enough. 14 weeks is almost four months. The NFL has 32 teams and runs for a 17 week regular season and a five week post season.

The Super 16 will only have half as many teams as the NFL. There is no reason to split the teams into divisions or conferences or have an endless season like other sports do. Each team can play 11 others in the regular season with one bye-week (goodness knows why they need one, but…). The four teams that a team doesn’t play will be determined by their placing in the season previously.

For example if Team A does really well in one season, then next season the teams it doesn’t play will be the lower ranked ones. Conversely if Team B does poorly then it will not play higher ranked teams in the next season. So basically if you have a great season, expect a harder draw next year and vice versa.

A shorter season has two effects: it will have less of an impact on the local provincial tournaments (like the NPC and the Curry Cup); and it allows for the easy addition of extra teams in the future.

4. Change the post-season.
Currently 4 of the 12 (or 1/3) teams make through to the post-season. So there’s two ways you could go with the Super 16 post-season.

You could keep it a simple top four teams go to the semi-finals. First plays Fourth, Second play Third; the winners go to the final. The higher ranked team always has home advantage. This makes for a 14 week season.

Or you could make it slightly more complicated. (NOTE: there is no such thing as “slightly more complicated”, if it more complicated then it is always “a lot more complicated”.)

You could have six teams make the finals. The top two have a bye week. In the first round: third plays sixth, fourth plays fifth. Of the winners the lower ranked team plays first and the other team plays second. The winners go through to the final. The higher ranked team always has home advantage. This makes for a 15 week season.

I have no preference other than the fact that the second option would have a higher TV audience.

5. Allow greater player movement but stop big team salaries
Each team is allowed to contract ANY other player from the extended pool. This means that the Highlanders could field a team of Aussies if they wanted (I imagine that they wouldn’t but they could). However there will be no “Dream Teams” assembled because a salary cap will be enforced.

Just like the NFL the cap will be enforced year round, no team is allowed to compete if they are over the cap (and any points they get will be deducted if they get them while over the cap). I’m not going to go into the economics of it but there will be clear system that includes player bonuses etc.

There will also be an allowance for players from outside the extended pool. Each team will be allowed two players on their roster who come from non-Super 16 countries.

Despite all of this, each franchise is connected to “feeder provinces”, like teams currently are. The franchises are responsible for providing funding to these provinces for development purposes.

6. The Draft
After a particular date (say 6 months before the start of the season) any player who is not under contract to a franchise can enter the player draft. There are some rules about contracting before this. New players (who have never been under a franchise contract) are allowed only into the draft and can not be contracted before the draft process. This means that some players from provinces will not go to the franchise that they feed. This shouldn’t discourage teams from developing players because the provinces won’t let it and quite frankly the franchises will get something out of it.

The draft will be ten rounds long with each franchise getting one pick. Your pick is dependent on your position in the standings of the previous season. Draft picks can be traded for players who are under contract or other draft picks or future draft picks or drafted players (i.e. Team A can trade a contracted player and it’s low second round pick for Team B’s high first round pick etc). It is up to the teams to decide whether these trades are fair or not.

The franchises do not have to sign the players that they draft. They are just given the chance to before anyone else. This is another way that teams who are not doing so well can boost their chances.

7. SANZAR gets a shake-up
First things first SANZAR gets a website. On that website are up-to-date statistics and results. There will be detailed reports on players’ health and pitch conditions. In New Zealand you can gamble on games, by not giving the public this information they are may as well just roll a dice.

Also on the website will be a clear and easy to navigate rulebook. Currently a Google search of rugby union rules gives one such reference tool, have a look.

This rulebook will come in handy when the SANZAR judiciary board convenes. This board will be used to give punishments on infringements made by players and teams. Currently the system is not consistent with its rulings. The board will be made of six (seven if there is a South American team) members one from each of the participating nations (NZ, Australia, South Africa, Japan) and a member from the Pacific Islands (and one from South America if needed).

Rupert Murdoch needs to be cut out of any ownership. Newscorp already lists the NRL as an “asset”, I am sure that nobody wants him owning any part of New Zealand rugby. Nor should SANZAR listen to Newscorp when redesigning their set-up. Basically in this part of the world rugby sells itself. Let Newscorp (as Sky TV) bid with the rest and make sh*tloads of money off it.

But then go further: add stipulations. Any successful television rights bidder will have to allow for the screening of at least one live and free-to-air match every week featuring a national team in each country. This means every week in New Zealand there will be a free-to-air match featuring a New Zealand team, every week in Japan there will be a free-to-air match featuring a Japanese team etc.

Do I think sales of Sky TV will go down? No. [Note Sky doesn’t care as much about rating because they don’t sell as much advertising]. Do I think that Sky will refuse to bid? No, they would have to be brain dead (um…I mean more brain dead). Do I think that Sky’s bid will be lower? Maybe initially but other stations will ramp up the prices if Sky drops theirs, so it should be good. Also it will increase viewership of the sport, which is what SANZAR mainly want (hahahahaha, ok so they mainly want the money but viewership is also important).

8. Share the wealth
The total takings from ticket sales, TV rights will be dolled out to each franchise equally. Teams can keep their own merchandise takings and sales from corporate boxes and season passes. This is yet another way of trying to create an equal playing field so that anyone can win.

OK, why do I want any team to be able to win? Because a competition where you know that one of two (or possibly three) teams are going to win is dull. Every season the same teams make the semis, every season the same teams come in last; a South African team has yet to win the Super 12.

This the tenth (and last) year of the Super 12 and in those ten years only three teams have ever won the competition (Crusaders(4), Blues(3) and Brumbies(2)).

Those ten years also saw:

  • Three different winners of the FA Premier League (Man U(6), Arsenal(3), Chelsea(1));
  • Five different winners of the NBA (Chicago(3), LA (3), San Antonio (2), Houston(1) Detroit(1));
  • But 7 different winners of the NFL’s Superbowl (and this includes the Patriots’ three wins). A few, like Baltimore and Tampa Bay, win and then suck the next season; but at least they won once! You see fans like it when their teams win. They should not have to get excited every year about not getting relegated.

People will get angry at these suggested changes. These people are fans of the big teams who always win and fans of teams that make the most money (fans of smaller teams will never complain about this). But if sport isn’t fair and even, then what’s the point? If you three teams always win then you three teams go and play by yourself and the other 9 teams will have their own competition, otherwise it is a waste of my time.

So that’s how it should go down. You hear me SANZAR?! If you ruin rugby, so help me God, I’mm gonna geet yooouu!


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