Saturday, December 13, 2014

Professionalism Rugby : Argentina's Future Model Explained

Photo UAR
The future of Argentine rugby was outlined late on Friday with UAR officials confirming that Argentina's Super Rugby team will be entirely union owned and operated, how many players will be involved and who they are to be. The contracting of players is to begin immediately with Pumas head coach Daniel Hourcade instructing the national body who it is he wants. Also outlined was the impressive profit made by the UAR in 2014, the new structure being established to have a superior working system and the country's desire to host Rugby World Cup 2023.  


Argentine journalist Jorge Búsico provided a summary of the changes agreed upon by the UAR in Friday's Press Conference in Buenos Aires. Speaking at the conference were UAR president Carlos Araujo, UAR secretary Fernando Rizzi and former Pumas captain and Argentina's Representative on the World Rugby council, Agustín Pichot.

The trio explained the agreed plan for the future, a future which is to see Argentina's desire to host Rugby World Cup 2023 becoming increasingly convincing. At the Press Conference Agustín Pichot repeated what he had previously said - he wants the tournament held in his country. With England and Wales hosting in 2015 and Japan doing so in 2019 the Northern Hemisphere will host twice in a row, something that has never happened previously. A return to the Home Unions in 2023 is therefore unlikely.

The bidding has already started with Ireland having confirmed it will be bidding and doing so with both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland included. Others including Australia, France, Italy, Russia and South Africa have previously stated their intention, like Argentina, of bidding. The host is to be determined in mid 2017. 

When the host is determined Argentina will have played five seasons in the Rugby Championship and two in Super Rugby. Pichot was heavily involved in enabling Argentina to be included in both and the former Puma remains focused to contributing to the future of rugby in his country. 

With Argentina's involvement in the Rugby Championship having been a tremendous financial success it was confirmed that Argentina's Super Rugby franchise, joining for the 2016 competition, will be entirely UAR owned and operated. Previously there had been moved towards shared ownership with private investors but the healthy financial position of the UAR has changed this. 

Of note is that the team will have no government investment. It will be entirely self-sufficient and thus professional. Justification for this was the balance recorded in 2014 of a profit of $17 million. The union is to use this money to build for the future with investments being made in improving the infrastructure both in rugby and administration terms. 

The UAR will be establishing a Human Resources management that will have the responsibility of managing the contracts of the players signed to the union to play for the Super Rugby team. Those playing both in the team and at international level are to be paid extra but there is to be no prize money for winning test matches. 

The policy of not selecting players in European clubs for international duty will begin in 2016. This means that those in Europe already and with contracts extending beyond June 2016 will need to return at this time or they will not be considered for international duty. A number of players fall into this category with neither Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe or Marcos Ayerza expected to feature after Rugby World Cup 2015. 

Before the end of the year the UAR is to contract 24 players. They are to be players chosen by Argentina's head coach Daniel Hourcade and prominent PladAR figures. The idea put forward is for the UAR to have 35-45 players contracted by the end of 2015 and for these players to play Super Rugby and for Los Pumas in the June and November internationals as well as the Rugby Championship. 

Those signed will have a notable less demanding schedule than what is offered in Europe. Although the money on offer will not match that in Europe the pay-off for the players will be international duty and being able to play at home and do so professionally. They are to also be afforded 16 weeks of rest time per year which is not possible in Europe due to there being up to 36 games a year. 

Although Hourcade will be indicating players he wants in Super Rugby he is not going to be involved in coaching the team. Instead the franchise will have its own coaching set-up and the UAR is looking to confirm the staff in 2015. The name of the franchise had previously been confirmed as the PampAS XV but this may yet change as there were three marketing businesses invited to the event to help confirm the name, uniform and merchandising. 

At SANZAR's request the team is to be Buenos Aires based and San Isidro has emerged as a leading option for the team to be based. The team is to play no fewer than eight home matches in Argentina per year. Of those players involved in the franchise that are not selected for international duty those from outside of Buenos Aires will be free to play for their clubs and all will be considered for Los Jaguares.

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