HARARE – A new global rugby union competition – concept of a leading British sports marketing agency founded by former Manchester United MD Mike Harnan – will not have its much-anticipated grand launch this December after the tournament was not given the go-ahead by the game’s world governing body.

“Unfortunately the tournament hasn’t been approved by World Rugby yet,” a source within Zimbabwe, one of the initial nine countries set to be involved, told SportsCast on Sunday.

Redstrike Marketing – which was founded in 2014 by Harnan – also has interests in rugby, Motorsport and golf.

The Redstrike CEO is credited with spearheading the runaway commercial success of English football giants Manchester United in the late 90s, and has continued to secure lucrative deals in the sports marketing industry.

In July, it was reported that US private equity group 777 Partners, who are also shareholders in Spanish La Liga club Sevilla FC, had signed an agreement with Redstrike to launch the exciting new rugby competition together.

Redstrike is now part of the Miami-based 777 Partners group of companies.

According to a report in World Today News in July, the new rugby competition would be worth an initial investment of US$7.5 million, “to break even in its third year thanks to income derived from audiovisual rights.”

The tournament was scheduled to immediately kick off following its December launch with eight teams in the first season, hopefully reaching 12 in its third year. Franchises from the United States, Italy, Spain, Germany, Romania, South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe had been lined up to participate.

These are mostly second to third tier nations of world rugby, with global power South Africa bringing forward three of its smaller provincial unions –Toyota Cheetahs, Airlink Pumas and Windhoek Draft Griquas.

The newly proposed competition certainly appears to be designed as a minor version of the world-class and hugely popular United Rugby Championship and Super Rugby.

Although the teams in the new competition have the blessings of their national federations, most are independently-owned franchises, like Zimbabwe’s Kuva Blue Thunder, which was formed in July for the purpose of competing in the new international competition.

With the great chasm in standards existing between the world’s best rugby-playing nations and the rest of the planet, the stronger emerging regions had pitched the idea of the new competition to the global ruling body as a way of reducing the gap via an independent, financially-viable and World Rugby-sanctioned event.

It couldn’t be immediately established why World Rugby has not given the tournament the nod, or if it will at all, in the future. The financial muscle of the proposed competition’s backers wouldn’t have left anyone in doubt though.

It was reported few days ago that 777 Partners has agreed to buy a majority stake in Hertha Berlin from mogul Lars Windhorst in what would be the largest foreign investment in a German football club.

777 Partners also own 70 percent of Serie A club Genoa and recently acquired Brazilian club Vasco da Gama for some US$125 million.


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