Rugby Netherlands has been struggling for several years to find the ideal design of the rugby pyramid. In the past, the Ereklasse has already been played in various different competition formats. Rugby is a physically intense sport for the players, so player welfare plays a big part in choosing the ideal format. Players can only play a limited number of matches per season. Rugby Nederland is an ambitious association and hopes to raise the level of Dutch rugby to a higher level in the coming years. The aim of the project was to investigate the optimal set-up for the highest division, first division and second divisions of Dutch rugby.
Hypercube has involved the entire rugby world of the Netherlands in the research in several rounds of stakeholder meetings. In addition, Hypercube has performed extensive data analysis, in which various options for the competitions have been examined. Both the conversations and the analyzes quickly showed that the current number of 16 clubs is not desirable. The differences in sporting strength are too large, which causes a high number of walk-over results and injuries due to the power relations in the field.
To increase the number of matches of equal strength, Hypercube has proposed a 12-team format for all three top levels. All teams play against each other in single rounds, after which the top 6 separate from the bottom 6 and then both groups play double rounds again. The format is concluded in the Ereklasse with play-offs and a championship final between the best teams. This format proved to score best in terms of competitive balance, match tension, top matches, big scores, injuries and balance across the pyramid as a whole. In addition, the format received the most positive reactions from stakeholders.
In addition to the competition format, Hypercube also provided the necessary advice in the field of a smart calendar format and a possible licensing system for the future.
Hypercube’s proposal was put to the vote at a special meeting of members and was broadly accepted. The new design of the rugby pyramid will already be played from the 2022/23 season.