Six Nations consider X-Factor style re-vamp
February 4, 2011
Could the Six Nations be competing for votes in the near future? © Getty Images
The Six Nations Committee is considering a major revamp of one of rugby's most beloved and historic tournaments. If the radical overhaul is given the go ahead 2011 would be the last time the tournament is played under its traditional format. The move is sure to create a stir with rugby traditionalists who fear the changes will cheapen a tournament which has its roots in the 19th century.
At present the Six Nations is played in a league format: teams are awarded two points for a win and one for a draw. At the conclusion of all five rounds of the Championship the team with the most points is crowned Six Nations champions. However, the Six Nations Committee is considering updating the format to a style more relevant to today's 'ever changing supporter base'. The committee is looking towards popular television shows such as X-Factor and social network sites such as Facebook to help give the tournament a more modern and relevant feel.
"Times change and the public's tastes change with it," said Six Nations spokesperson George Walker at a press conference in London. "In today's dynamic entertainment and sports market we need to embrace fully the latest trends and happenings and make the Six Nations appeal to as wide a market as possible. If we stand still we will stagnate and fall behind. We can develop this excellent brand we possess and move it into the 21st Century."
The most controversial proposal is that the current league table system for deciding the winner will be disbanded and replaced by a system in which the public vote in the Championship winner by ringing a premium telephone line. It is proposed that after the final match of the Six Nations a special show will be hosted by a prominent television sports personality (somebody with a high profile, such as Richard Keys) in which the merits of all the teams are discussed and debated. The public can then vote for the team they feel deserves to be crowned as champions of Europe.
In the event of a tiebreak, is it suggested that a special showdown between the relevant coaches and captains of each team will take place during a one off special show. Players will be asked to perform ball tricks, relate funny stories and play drinking games while coaches will be encouraged to give examples of their best pre-match and half-time team talk.
"We are very excited about all of this," said Walker. "Rugby's audience has grown significantly since professionalism and we should be proud. But if we take a bold risk and make some more adjustments we can tap into the huge Saturday evening primetime television audience. We could bring millions of new fans into the game. It'll also be more democratic. If, for example, Italy put in a sterling display and scare one of the bigger teams but fail to get that last minute conversion from the touchline to claim a victory, should they really lose? Why not have a television phone vote afterwards to decide who really deserved to win? It'll make things much more exciting. It'll also mean the likes of Italy have much more chance to carry off silverware at the season's end. People love democracy."
As well as phone votes there are plans being mooted for ordinary members of the public to compete to win a place on their own national team. "We all love a good underdog story," continued Walker. "Why not have an ordinary fan from each country compete in X-Factor style auditions during a pre-Six Nations televisions series for the right to earn a place in their team's starting XV?
"It would add that fairytale element missing from modern rugby. Each team would be obligated to have one player in the starting XV from our X-Factor type show. I'm sure it would be a huge success. There must be dozens of rugby Susan Boyles out there, just waiting for their big break. Just imagine the scene: England v Scotland, Nick Easter bursts, or rather lurches, from a scrum.
"He charges downfield and causes panic in the opposition ranks. From the ensuing ruck Wilkinson spies the opposition is vulnerable far out left. He puts in the mother of all up and unders and there, below the plummeting ball, stands some lucky competition winner who just a few weeks ago was working in Burger King and had never even played rugby before. As he stands, arms outstretched under the falling ball an entire nation watches as he tries to compose himself to catch the ball as five eighteen stone English rugby players come charging at him, intent on bodily harm.
"Imagine the joy and pleasure if that little guy caught the ball, dodged a few tackles and set off downfield to score the winning try? Who wouldn't enjoy that type of Cinderella story? Of course, we would have to have good insurance contracts and get the contestants to sign legal disclaimers in case it didn't quite work out like that. But you can see what we are getting at here. Everyone loves a Rocky story and we want to give them one."
If the changes go ahead it would be the most radical shake up of the tournament since 1956 when Twickenham first allowed drinks other than gin and tonic to be consumed at the ground during matches.
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