Japanese Rugby Football Union vice-president Katsuyuki Kiyomiya has confirmed that plans are being put in place for a new domestic league in the country to continue the rise of the sport in Japan.
Kiyomiya spoke to Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei and explained how the national team’s rise in the sport, which has seen them reach the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup, has aided them with their decision to put together a new league come 2021.
“This World Cup is a big event Japanese rugby has not experienced before and we are tested on how we take the excitement and enthusiasm created by this event to the next level. Now is the chance to start a professional league, which enables Japanese spectators to see star players in the World Cup 2019 playing at first hand, right in front of their eyes,” he said.
The vice-president confirmed that they would hold a press conference on November the 18th where they will discuss the plans and ambitions for the new competition which they say will run from August to January each year.
This schedule could cause tensions between the clubs in Japan and the Southern Hemisphere nations as their players could sign on for the season in Japan while also playing Super Rugby but that would mean that they could miss their international games.
Kiyomiya believes that this new league would bring in annual revenues of around 50 billions yen which would allow the league and its teams to compete with the financial power of European leagues such as the Top 14 in France.
The fear for the likes of countries like New Zealand would be that their players may use their contracts, which allow for a move to Japan before returning home, to go play in the new league while missing the international season.
Worries will be there for the likes of Beauden Barrett and Brodie Retallick signing new contracts this year will provide for a sabbatical in Japan which could cause major problems.
The new league would replace the current Top League which contains 16 teams with the proposed new league reducing to 12 teams.
We will have to wait and see what happens over the next couple of months but not only could we see countries finding it hard to get players to play internationally if the league goes ahead but for Super Rugby players it could lead to them becoming burned out as they try to play all year round between the two leagues. However, it would allow the Japanese players to continue to improve as they mix among the world’s best.
Leicester Tigers to rebrand Welford Road
Leicester Tigers and long-standing official partner Mattioli Woods today announce a new five-year deal that will see the wealth management firm rebrand the stadium as Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
The move marks a first for the club – who have played in the same spot since moving to the ground back in 1892 – and is one that will play a huge role in supporting the future of the Leicester Tigers.
Mattioli Woods have been an official partner of the Tigers since 2016 supporting the club through shirt sponsorship and naming rights to the stadium’s East Stand.
The Covid-19 pandemic has the potential to see the club lose further millions in revenue over the coming months. The decision to rebrand the stadium is one that Tigers has not taken lightly owing to the significance Welford Road has in the hearts of supporters around the world.
Back in 2017, supporters and the club came together to celebrate 125 years of Welford Road, of which the north, east and west stand have all undergone major construction in the last twenty-five years taking capacity at the stadium to 25,849.
The decision to keep the ‘Welford Road’ name alongside the partnership is one that Mattioli Woods and the club felt was important, retaining the traditions of the club. This ‘club-first’ mentality echoes the shared values both organisations have in a move that can ensure Tigers remain at the heart of the city’s community.
The deal, which will run until the end of the 2024/25 season, includes stadium naming rights as well as branding around the team dugouts and externally around the venue. The company will also retain naming rights of the Mattioli Woods Stand as well as back of shirt sponsorship.
The two organisations became city centre neighbours in 2018 with Mattioli Woods moving its Leicester office to the top of Welford Road where they house 400 employees in the five-storey complex as part of the city’s regeneration project.
Over the years, the two businesses have worked together supporting the annual Rothley 10k run, organising stadium visits for schools, hosting networking events for local businesses as well as providing financial advice workshops.
A word from the CEOs…
As the club announced a historic moment with the rebrand of the home of Leicester Tigers to the Mattioli Woods Welford Road stadium, the chief executive officers of both organisations released the below statements.
Andrea Pinchen, chief executive officer at Leicester Tigers, said:
“Welford Road is an icon of world rugby as the home of Leicester Tigers and a venue that has helped to put Leicester on the sporting map.
“In these uncertain times, the club has had to look at new ways to provide value for supporters and partners in a way that can generate revenue and ensure that there is a club for fans to come back to.
“Mattioli Woods have been a partner of the club for many years, and whenever contractual rights are involved, we want to ensure that the traditions of the club remain a consideration.
“Having been such a loyal supporter of Tigers, we are extremely proud to unveil the Mattioli Woods Welford Road stadium signifying a partnership steeped in Leicester’s roots.
“Ian (Mattioli) is a close friend of the club and over the years, we’ve been grateful for his and the company’s support both financially as well as within the community.
“We understand it is a difficult time for every business at the moment, with sacrifices being made along the way, but the good times will return and I hope that this move symbolises the commitment of two Leicester businesses working through this together.”
Ian Mattioli, chief executive officer at Mattioli Woods said:
“Having been born and bred in Leicester, the Tigers have been a huge part of my life and I consider the club staff, players and supporters a part of the Mattioli Woods family.
“The COVID pandemic has impacted all of our lives, beyond anything we could have imagined. Personally, and as a business we have looked for ways to help the local communities where we have offices, supplying iPads to hospitals and other support where we can.
“Tigers have gone through tough times of late, as the majority of clubs have and so I am delighted that we are able to guarantee our support for the next five years. I am also proud the business I started in my garage in Leicester and employs so many local people both in Leicester and around the country, will be linked with this amazing club as Mattioli Woods Welford Road. Supporting our sporting clubs at this time is vital for our community.
“Sport breaks down barriers, it has the potential to reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing, and in these very testing times we are living in, it is important that families are still able to watch their beloved team and look forward to eventually being back in the stands.”
Mixed injury news for Leinster
There is a welcome return to full training for three players as Dave Kearney (hamstring), Ciarán Frawley (facial injury) and Dan Sheehan (cheekbone) will all take to the field in UCD today.
Dan Leavy is also expected to step up his training load this week as he continues his return from a knee injury.
Cullen also shone further light on Jordan Larmour’s situation as he confirmed that the Leinster and Ireland back will be missing for up to 16 weeks following a procedure last week on a dislocated shoulder.
There was no new injury update from Cullen on Ryan Baird (adductor), Max Deegan (knee), Tadhg Furlong (calf), Vakh Abdaladze (back), Conor O’Brien (hamstring) and Adam Byrne (hamstring) who all remain unavailable for selection.
The loss of Larmour until at least February will be a big blow to Leinster and Ireland.
Scottish Rugby season ruled null and void.
This decision follows the earlier interim suspension and then final closure of the season based on Government advice in relation to the Covid-19 virus and is being issued today, 31 March in line with the previous objective of informing clubs by the end of the month.
The decision to declare the 2019/20 season null and void – meaning there will be no automatic promotion/relegation – was reached following an extensive consultation process involving the participating clubs, the Championship and Competition Committee members and Scottish Rugby’s own Rugby Development Department.
Five possible scenarios were presented, with around half of clubs favouring the null and void option. The remaining clubs were split between the other four options. The second most favoured option – finishing the season based on the league positions at the time of shutdown – received the support of around a quarter of clubs.
Further to the club consultation, the declaration of a null and void season was recommended by the Convenor of the Championship Committee, the Reserve League Committee Chair and the Chair of the Women’s Competition Committee.
Their recommendation was supported by Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby Development.
A paper summarising the consultation process, the possible season-ending options and containing a recommendation from Championship Convenor, the Reserve League Chair and the Women’s Competition Chair was provided to Scottish Rugby Council for consideration and feedback.
The Council’s endorsement of the proposal was then ratified by the Scottish Rugby Board in its role to oversee the best interests of the game, with authority then granted to the Championship Committee to bring the recommendation into force.
Scottish Rugby President Dee Bradbury said: “It was clear from the outset that, in terms of the consequential impact on the various leagues in terms of promotion/relegation there would be no “right” solution, particularly once it was clear that our preferred option of completing the season would no longer be possible.”
“Every solution we looked at was likely to be problematic in some way – none was likely to be supported by everyone. It was therefore considered essential that the full range of options were explored, each potential option was sense checked and that, as far as possible, a broad consensus was reached across the game as to the most appropriate outcome.
“We fully accept some clubs will be disappointed with this decision and share their frustration that, for wider societal reasons beyond our control, their hard work to push for success this season hasn’t yielded the rewards they deserve.”
Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby Development Sheila Begbie said: “It was important we went through a thorough process to canvass opinion and offer a range of options for how the season could be concluded.
“I would like to thank all the clubs that contributed to this process and for their valuable input. I know the Competitions Committees and Convenors have put in a huge amount of time to ensure there was a credible outcome for every club, and while there are obviously clubs who will be disappointed, I believe this is a fair solution for everyone in these unprecedented circumstances.”
Dougie Belmore, Championship Committee Convenor said: “Extensive discussion and consultation has taken place with the various Championship and Competition Committee members, together with representatives from a wide range of Clubs at all levels of the game. Following this exercise, the clear agreed position is that, due to the unprecedented events currently unfolding globally, Season 2019/20 should be declared null and void. A number of alternative options have been explored in detail, with the majority of Clubs supporting this outcome.”
Scottish Rugby would like to thank everyone who contributed to this extensive and important process at such a difficult time and thanks all clubs for their valuable insight and understanding in the conclusion of the 2019/20 season.
The SRU has a comprehensive list of FAQs and answers on their website. List can be found here.