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SANZAR ready for expansion talk
ESPN Staff
August 7, 2012
SANZAR CEO Greg Peters, Super Rugby season launch, Hoyts Cinemas, Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park, Sydney, Australia, September 13, 2010
SANZAR boss Greg Peters has hinted at future expasion of the Super Rugby competition © Getty Images
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SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters has revealed his organisation is ready to consider ideas as to the future shape of the Super Rugby competition.

The current conference-based format cannot be altered under the terms of the latest broadcasting deal that runs until 2015 but the debate regarding the future shape of the battle for southern hemisphere supremacy is intensifying, fuelled by concerns over perceived bias in the play-off system.

Peters has been vociferous in his defence of what he insists is a "unique" format but has revealed to ESPN that the governing body is open to expansion talk. "We will certainly start to consider it," he said. "It is another thing that the conference format allows us to do and, we can add teams and add conferences.

"When we look at 2016 onwards, we have no closed views on what the future may look like and our current format allows us to expand should we wish to and should it be in the best interests of the three SANZAR countries to do so because that is why we do this. We are not the IRB, we do not have responsibility to grow world rugby, we have an imperative to do what's best for South Africa, Australia and New Zealand."

South Africa are reportedly pressing for a larger presence in the competition with the pressure growing to accommodate their existing five sides and the Southern Kings who are in line to enter the fray in 2013. But SANZAR may look further afield if it makes commercial sense with Argentina, who will enter the Rugby Championship later this month, Japan, the USA and the Pacific Islands all mentioned as possible new territories in terms of teams and conferences.

"We haven't engaged formally with people in the new territories that may want to come into Super Rugby," added Peters. "I am sure Argentina will have aspirations to do so if their entry into the Rugby Championship is the success we all know it will be.

"There are a number of options we could consider and obviously Asia-Pacific is a strong area for the future given Japan is hosting the 2019 World Cup and the interest in rugby is going to grow in that area without doubt and we all know the strength of the Pacific Island players in our competitions currently.

"There are lot of opportunities, including others in the Americas, but the ultimate goal for SANZAR is to do what is best for the three main countries. You have to get additional commercial value into the equation before you can expand into any new territories."

Peters also believes latest statistics underline the fact the format is appealing to fans. "We've ended up with 66m people watching Super Rugby this year which is about 16% up on last year," he explained. "There were also 2.6m live spectators which is about 10% up on last year. The really pleasing numbers are coming out of New Zealand, who had a difficult 2011 for a number of reasons, where crowds are up 30% and viewing figures are up 20%.

"Those are really big numbers for a country that has been knocked about a little bit economically and with the earthquake. The euphoria surrounding their Rugby World Cup win has carried through to our competition which is fantastic from our point of view.

"South Africa has been very strong on the viewership front with good crowds although marginally down while Australia has also been marginally down on what was a very big year in 2011 that saw the Reds win and the Wallabies claim the Tri-Nations. Overall we are very happy."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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