I’VE often been asked how I see the game of rugby in 10 years and whether it will progress along the lines of football.
I’ve always felt that the professional game will invariably be played on a Sunday, not least because a lot of the people who would like to watch are themselves involved in the sport on a Saturday.
The top clubs need to be playing in front of crowds of around 20,000 in order to get that sustainability, so I can see change happening further down the line.
The news last week that the French Top 14 clubs have signed a massive new television deal is really the start of everything – I really believe that.
The five-year deal with Canal+ to screen Top 14 games live is worth just under £60million a year from next season.
This is double your money time – and it really gives their clubs so much more clout.
As far as I’m aware, the deal that the Aviva Premiership clubs signed with BT Sport, which started this season, has met all expectations in terms of viewing figures and, as far as I’m aware, that deal has two more years to run.
But we can be sure that when that contract is up, the new one is not going to be for less than the French one.
What this means is we are now getting towards the realms of top players earning million pound-plus salaries – already the salary cap in England has been increased for next season.
When you see that sort of growth happening – especially with the World Cup to come in 2015 – I’m very excited about the future of the sport.
I really see it as a ‘golden age’ and, while it is still dwarfed by football, rugby is now surpassing cricket.
Hopefully it won’t go down cricket’s route, in terms of there being so much of it.
But while rugby is prepared to take that sort of money, they will be dancing to the tune of the television companies.
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