Rugby News focus on the overview of 2020 with the Rugby Australia CEO role activities ahead of the takeover from Andy Marinos

It has been a difficult year of Australian Rugby. We saw Raelene Castle face the music more than often. It is not just about the Israel Folau dispute. That is where people fired back at this decision.

And Raelene received death threats very immediately. But she gave Foxtel a hard time too. Foxtel began the bidding process to retain the rugby rights. Then Raelene rejected their opening offer. She put these rights offers in the open market. And it made Foxtel land into cold feet about this.

Enter Optus Sport as the initial main contender. Raelene almost rubber stamped the deal. And officially inform Optus as the new partner from 2021. Plus retain Network 10 with the expansion of one Super Rugby live game. But COVID-19 ruined this deal. The relief funds/direction Rugby Australia is heading did not bode well. And that was the end of Raelene.

Rob Clarke sworn into this CEO role for the rest of 2020. He helped tone down the anger with Foxtel. And struck a revised short-term deal with the Super Rugby AU plus the Wallabies. Rob also cleaned up some of the mess Raelene made. And worked alongside Hamish McLennan. The guy who used to work for Network 10.

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Hamish brought the Big Bash for Ten on the cheap from the realms of Foxtel. And its value soared many times thanks to the exposure made on Free TV. He also secured a low-cost deal for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. But resigned from Ten in 2015. Moved into various roles ever since. And now Hamish is here to save Australian Rugby as the chairman.

Both men eventually worked again on the upcoming tv rights renewal. And desired to put more rugby on Free TV. Foxtel would be back in the race. The same goes with Network 10. But bundled up alongside Foxtel. And only retain the Wallabies games. Foxtel and Network 10 are not the only contenders out there.

Amazon did put their name via the initial expressions of interest. Nothing has gone forward ever since. Optus & Channel 7 are not interested. But there is a new name coming up. Enter the Nine Network who wanted the whole lot. Not partnering up with Foxtel. Just the exclusivity with the potential of airing via Stan. Their existing paid streaming platform. Stan has yet to air sports before. But are happy to do it as long as the project is right. Rob and Hamish had a looked at the two backers.

It is either Patrick Delaney at Foxtel or Hugh Marks at Nine/Stan. Both men and the board voted for Nine and Stan. And Rob had to inform Patrick for the news during a yacht activity on Saturday. Pat may be gutted. But he accepted this decision and wished Hugh good luck. Nine officially signed the deal two days later.

That marked a new era of rugby in Australia. Everybody will be able to watch a Super Rugby AU game on Saturday night. We did not ever get to have one before. The Wallabies games will still be there as usual. And there is more to come with the State of Union in 2022. Plus the transition of a Trans-Tasman SR format.

Stan will replace Foxtel at the same time and offer a one stop shop out there. We may still have to pay to watch. And watch the whole lot of rugby. So Nine needs some money back. But I am sure this price will be $15 a month via add-on. Same rate as Optus Sport for the soccer. Rather than $50 plus a month to watch from Foxtel.

Now Rob Clarke found the long-term successor at Rugby Australia. Meet Andy Marinos. He was born in Zimbabwe & play rugby for Wales. Plus a short stint in the NRL with the Canterbury Bulldogs. Andy brings plenty of admin experience. He began with a club in Newport, Wales shortly after he retired. He then returned to South Africa in 2005. And worked with the Springboks board for 10-11 years.

SANZAAR later hired Andy to be the boss for the whole of Super Rugby. And relocated here in Sydney from 2016. I do not know who approved the 18-team format. But Andy noticed these mistakes asked Australia & South Africa to cut teams. SA sent the Cheetahs & Southern Kings to Europe. While Australia got rid of the Western Force. That tough decision became a 15-team format in 2018. He reviewed this process. And things did not improve either. Andy made the choice to shut the Sunwolves down by 2020. And became Super 14 once again from 2021.

Then the unexpected came with COVID earlier this year. Rugby Australia & New Zealand immediately formed their standalone formats. And the use of local derbies worked both ways. It may not be a thing for the long-run. At least for the next years to decades. But both parties will agreed for a Trans-Tasman format. It will happen for a small time as a teaser in May-June 2021. This 10 team competition will transition into full-time from 2022.

It leaves South Africa out at least in the domestic form. Their best interests will be against the best of Europe. The time zones will be on par. And profitability will come from their end. But it does not mean SA will be gone from The Rugby Championship. Despite their exclusion from their 2020 tour. SA will still be in the TRC with SANZAAR until the end of 2030.

I am sure Andy is a people person. He is here for quality. And regrow the game here as a whole. That is what made him earn that CEO role for Rugby Australia.

Andy is impressed with the new Nine/Stan contract. As well as a great group alongside chairman named Hamish. Now it is all about improving grassroots. And not see youngsters lost to other codes.

I wish Andy the best of luck in this role from February 2021. Happy Holidays.

Published by Sports Benches

Matthew Nicholas, the founder/blogger/vlogger on Sports Benches, is an aspiring cricket player & passionate sports fanatic who lives in Sydney, Australia.

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