Rugby X is a new format of rugby union being launched tonight in the O2 arena, London.

  • 5 a-side full contact rugby
  • half-sized pitch.
  • 10 minutes a-side
  • No half-time
  • 3 man-uncontested scrums
  • No Lineouts, No conversions, No penalty kicks

Why ?

It’s rugby’s answer to T20 cricket or the NBA.

2-3 hours of entertainment, as opposed to tournaments that last for days, weeks or months.

The aim is to simplify and speed up the game, while also creating a more accessible and easier to coach sport. All you need is a pitch and 10 players. No technical aspects like scrums and lineouts. Easier for teachers to coach in school.

Key Considerations in setting up a sport ?

  • How is it regulated ?

The choice is to have it sanctioned by the governing body vs. not sanctioned.

Rugby X is a World Rugby sanctioned event. That means World Rugby must agree the laws, procedures in addition to details like a calendar date.  Ultimately, you need the governing body on board. The alternative is a non-sanctioned event which is costly (increased insurance), lacks credibility, and very difficult to run (where do you get your players ?). The "XFL" tried this "unsanctioned model" in 2001 to rival the NFL and folded after a one season.  

  • Choice of structure

Contractual model (Champions League, Rugby World Cup) vs. Shareholder model (Six Nations, Premier League).

The former allows the organizing body retain a high level of control which is suitable for competitions (such as Rugby World Cup) where teams can vary from one tournament to the next, whereas the latter is most suitable for external backers/ investors looking for a stable product to invest in.

  • Who are your teams and who owns the rights ?

Rugby X own and control the IP rights and commercial rights to the event. The sporting rights (e.g. the laws) are owned by World Rugby. Teams come from the 7’s squads of England, Ireland, USA, France, Argentina, and Barbarians (a mix of countries) and so agreements with those countries' unions must be in place.

The Rugby X experiment is a brave but risky one. They said the same thing about Cricket's T20 though.