Article Published: Tuesday 16 October 2007
Written by: Sports Digital Media
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Door open for Argentina to join TriNations
Argentina could be playing in an expanded Tri Nations rugby tournament from as early as next year, it emerged in Paris last night according to Ireland's Independent.
Argentina entered the Rugby World cup a month ago and from the very first ball they had a feel good factor about them which made them the success story of the tournament (unless you are French).
Admittedly they stumbled in their first ever Semi final against South Africa but a place in the World cup final was not beyond comprehension for the Pumas.
This Friday, if Argentina beat France in the bronze final, they will finish third at this World Cup, an extraordinary achievement.
Yet the IRB continues to drag its feet over getting the Pumas into a serious professional competition for the first time in their history.
IRB Chairman Syd Millar, asked recently what the board intended to do to end the anomaly of Argentina's isolation from world rugby, proclaimed, "It is not in the board's gift to force their entry into an international competition."
If that sounded like a so-called world-governing body abdicating responsibility and turning its back on proper leadership, then the board only has itself to blame. Governing bodies are supposed to lead, to direct and, where necessary, to instruct.
Those below them have to toe the line if they wish to operate in their domain. It has now become clear that TV bosses in the southern hemisphere are far from satisfied with the current format, and are most reluctant to see a return to the arrangement whereby the three competing nations play each other three times in a season by rotation.
That format was reduced this year because of the World Cup but in 2008 it is due to revert to the original plan.
But TV bosses are now saying out loud they have little further interest in that formula.
Speaking to an unnamed Independent media person a TV insider was reported to have said , "Quite honestly, this Tri-Nations event simply isn't working for us. We want to see a meaningful expansion and that means Argentina coming in."
But will it happen? "Put it like this" I was told. "If it doesn't, they risk ending up without a TV deal at all.
"The figures aren't good and something has to be done. Now."
The current SANZAR TV deal is due to run until 2010 but clearly, television does not want to wait that long to change the format.
The IRB could put up a financial sum to assuage the concerns of the three southern hemisphere powers about the cake being cut four ways, thereby costing them revenue. Realistically, that is the chief stumbling block to immediate action.
If the loss were covered it would be inexplicable for those nations still to resist Argentina's entry.
But the likelier route is for the SANZAR countries to go directly to the TV people and request a re-negotiated contract that included Argentina.
My information is that they would be pushing at an open door.
With even a modest increase in the value of the deal and, possibly, some limited financial support from the IRB, the deal could possibly be struck this side of Christmas.
The board's present claims that they are powerless to act is a mystery.
A governing body in any sport surely has the capacity to run its own game.
If this is not the case in rugby union, then it says that there is a dangerous vacuum at the top. In time, outside interests may well look to exploit such a void if it truly does exist.
As do all of us, the Argentineans sit and wait to see what the future of the TriNations will be.