The Six Nations could be moved from spring to autumn 2021 amid coronavirus uncertainty and lack of crowds as bosses consider putting the competition behind a pay-wall
- Six Nations chiefs are mulling over whether to move event from its spring spot
- The RFU are set to miss out on more than £60m without fans attending matches
- It could even move to pay TV as bosses look to fill the holes in missing revenue
Six Nations bosses will consider moving the tournament from its traditional Spring slot if government bailouts are not sufficient as they wise up to the ‘inevitability’ of the competition moving behind a pay-wall.
The RFU and their counterparts at the Irish, Welsh and Scottish unions are all expecting state help to survive the financial havoc the Covid crisis is wreaking.
But with England now back in lockdown and no fans anticipated for the foreseeable future discussions are ongoing about shifting rugby’s oldest championship to secure the income it brings.
The Six Nations is at risk of being moved from its traditional spring spot amid covid uncertainty
Without crowds during the Six Nations the RFU expect to miss out more than £60m of revenue during the tournament.
And new Wales CEO Steve Phillips revealed they would give up £13.5m without supporters for their England and Ireland home games.
So if those black holes cannot be filled by government money, the tournament may have to be moved.
‘We have posed the question, “should we move the Six Nations?” Phillips told Sportsmail.
The RFU stand to miss out around £60m if fans are not allowed into stadiums next year
‘Everyone has shown great agility in changing things. They did move the Olympics by a year, which is quite a thing to do, so why would you not look at it?
‘Going from 100 per cent, as we’ve always known it, to zero would mean we miss out on £13.5million. That does become uncomfortable.
‘Are governments across it? Our colleagues at the RFU, IRFU, SRU will have the same problem.
‘We’re optimistic that DCMS will react to that over the next few weeks.’
Sources have indicated to Sportsmail that one provisional idea is to move as far as the autumn of 2021.
‘We’d always prefer the option of moving it within the same season,’ said Phillips.
‘The difficulty is where you move it to. Moving it from starting in February to March, how do you know the climate will have changed and you can have crowds?
‘If you push it too far you get the problem of season congestion, the knock-on on clubs.
There is an ‘inevitability’ that the event will be moved behind a paywall to fill revenue holes
‘Given the size of the prize for the collective you have to look at it – whether you can deliver it is the next question.
‘What you probably want to avoid is displacing it into the autumn window where we play southern-hemisphere opposition. That isn’t great either.
‘There is a wider social piece here. I had a surreal experience of going to the Stade de France the other week.
‘It really brings home how much the game needs a crowd. The financials are obvious, but it’s a very different environment particularly in international rugby.
‘It is just wrong not to have crowds.’
The Six Nations looks destined to move off free-to-air television from 2022.
The current broadcast deal with the BBC and ITV runs out after the next tournament and as part of the unions’ ‘Project Light’ idea to package up Six Nations and autumn Test rights, pay-TV partners are being lined up.
‘There is an inevitability to it,’ said Phillips.
Amazon are showing the Autumn Nations Cup and could be a possible future broadcaster
‘Everyone is now trying to fill revenue holes. I fully accept not everyone is going to like it but it’s a decision that will be made as the Six Nations together.’
Amazon will show the Autumn Nations Cup – involving the Six Nations, plus Georgia and Fiji – starting next Friday and could move for rugby’s crown jewels.
‘Would we consider Sky, BT, Amazon for that? Absolutely,’ added Phillips. ‘Why wouldn’t we?’
Phillips would also be open to South Africa joining the Six Nations in future too.
‘We see South Africa as part of the Rugby Championship, but that is not to say we can’t have a future conversation,’ he said.