BY STELLA MILLS
The RFU have today announced a ten-year strategy plan to grow the Allianz Premier 15’s, which will see a creation of a new independent operating company to oversee the growth of the league.
Currently, the competition is largely considered to be the most competitive domestic women’s rugby league across the globe, which can be evidenced by the talent that has been attracted from overseas this season.
Structurally, the new operating company which will be at the helm of this will have its own Chief Executive who will report to an independent Board of Directors. The board is expected to be made up of an independent chair, representatives from the RFU, PRL and others. It is understood that the RFU are now actively recruiting for this role and hoping to fill it in a timely manner.
Specifically, the strategy document sets out eight key objectives for the league that cover audience growth, commercial revenue, player pathways and professionalism.
The league will involve up to ten teams. The RFU have loosely alluded to key “mechanisms” being in place for teams wanting to break into the league but have not yet divulged any specific details regarding said mechanisms.
On this, Sue Day, RFU Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer commented:
“Clubs will need to demonstrate what they can put in place to meet the minimum operating standards, and in the future, there will be mechanisms to ensure the minimum operating standards are adhered to.”
The operating company, which is yet to be formed, will seek to increase the Minimum Operating Standards across the league, which include but are not limited to increasing the coaching staff, enhanced S&C provision, performance lifestyle support, medical cover and improved facility quality and access.
The off-pitch product is also a core component of the strategy. The profile of the league is expected to be raised through increased marketing activity to drive up match day attendance and improvements in the quality of coverage, with the aim of securing a free to air broadcast deal within the ten-year strategy.
A strong sticking point for the league recently has been the soft salary cap, unlike the men’s Premiership, the Allianz Premier 15’s cap is not enforced with as much strength. Recently, there have been calls for this to be looked at, especially regarding the drafting in of overseas players by certain teams in the league.
Financially, the RFU expect the overall cost of the league to total £222m over a ten-year period, with expected revenues to be £174m. This leaves a stark gap of £48m in investment to be filled to enable the league to operate. This cost is expected to be shared by the RFU and clubs. Specifically, the RFU have pledged to take on £24m of this, whilst the ten clubs will each be expected to front up £2.4m.
PRL’s exact involvement in this remains largely unclear. What is clear, is that PRL will not be a direct shareholder or investor in this new league but will still have a seat at the table when it comes to sharing knowledge and being involved in board meetings.
Simon Massie-Taylor, Premiership Rugby Chief Executive commented:
“Premiership rugby’s role moving forward is to be a partner, there is a lot of things we do that the league can either learn from or lean on.”
Interestingly, when the asked about external equity investors, the CEO said: “The strategy stands on its own two feet without the need for external investment.”
The expression of interest for all clubs opens today, with a formal application process being launched later in the year.
The full strategy document can be found here.