Monday, May 18, 2015

Super Rugby: Plans for Argentine Franchise

Photo UAR
Many questions remain unanswered as to the what the future holds for the Argentine Super rugby franchise which is to debut in the 2016 competition. UAR President Carlos Araujo recently revealed the plans as they stand presently and what is to come. The team continues to be without a name or a home venue and is also yet to fully confirm all squad members. Argentine rugby has plenty riding on the success of the franchise with Araujo having admitted that there is real interest in having a second Argentine team join the competition in the coming years. 

The desire of World Rugby authorities for Argentina to have a fully professional domestic league will have to wait. The UAR argues that there is no market at present to justify the creation of a provincial or club-oriented professional rugby competition in the country. Overtime the situation may indeed change for the possibility to become real with rugby having the means to operate under a cost-effective professional model. 

The UAR, nonetheless, now has the means to contract players and, thus far, twenty-five have done so. Such an accomplishment appeared all but impossible ten years ago when the players led a revolt against the union asking for better preparation and playing conditions for the test team.Now in 2015 two of those in the 2005 team, Felipe Contepomi and Mario Ledesma are candidates to coach the Super Rugby team. 

The choice of coaches remains unknown with Araujo confirming that all is to be revealed in November following the completion of the World Cup in England and Wales. The reason for the delay is strategic. The UAR is looking to maximize marketing power by not confusing Super Rugby with the World Cup and other involvement of Los Pumas. 

The concentration of resources into one Super Rugby team is a three year plan with 2019 having been identified as the time in which Argentina could have a second franchise playing Super Rugby. SANZAR is in favor of a second Argentine team but there is yet no word as to where it would be based. The team entering the 2016 competition is to play it's rugby in Buenos Aires. 

Establishing a second franchise would likely be in one of the High-Performance development centres. In other words the cities of Córdoba, Rosario, Mendoza, Tucumán and Salta loom as the logical options for the UAR to locate a new franchise. Of them Córdoba is the largest in population while Tucumán is regarded as being at the heartland of Argentine rugby. Importantly Tucumán has direct flights to both Buenos Aires and Santiago del Chile allowing it to be easily accessed. 

In order for a second franchise to become a reality the first one will need to be an economic success and also deliver results on the field. The current policy of the UAR to contract between thirty and forty players is aimed at giving the country's team the required resources and for the High Development system to continue producing more players to give Argentina a larger pool of options. 

With Buenos Aires confirmed as the home of the first professional Argentine team what is remaining is the team's exact location. Araujo and the UAR want the team to play it's rugby in the northern suburbs of Buenos Aires for it is in this region that the majority of URBA clubs can be found and is also easily accessed from other provinces. Moreover the region is also close to both of Buenos Aires' international airports. 

The home ground of the team also remains unconfirmed but Araujo has hinted that the UAR is seeking to have constant home crowds of around 12,000. Of Argentina's professional soccer clubs one is located in the region in which the UAR seeks to have the franchise based. Club Atlético Tigre play at the Coliseo de Vitoria which has a capacity of 26,000. The venue will be made official in November as will the name of the team itself.

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