Sunday, April 27th, 2008...7:57 am

Super rugby – It’s in safe hands (not) !

Jump to Comments

The latest headline is that Super Rugby will be re vamped, maybe as early as 2009. Broadcasters say that viewing numbers are falling, SANZAR must re jig the competition to keep players at home and to spark more interest for the fans and players. (Source :

Why the rush for change, why by 2009. Why not take more time to research, plan,  explain and sell the changes to the fan base. Are the fans deserting the game in droves because there love for the game has diminished, is this the reason or is it because the administrators have completely stuffed up. By over paying players (ARU), by resting players (NZRFU), allowing second rate players to be selected (SAFRU to boost the black player profile), or have unions miss managed there affairs producing financial losses (Yr 2007 results: ARU -$7 mil, NZFRU -$1.7 mil).

Playing viewing numbers should not be expected to sky rocket every year, remember the viewer has economic boundaries and an attention span that can only support so much rugby in a calendar year. So I put the forward the notion that the demand for the change in super rugby is not fan demand lead, it is administrator incompetence lead.

So what can the pandora box of a new re vamp super rugby competition be leading the fan into, god only knows, but rest assured fan, you are in good hands as the new plan has been well researched and thought out, all will be well (not) ! See more on performance of NZRFU and ARU in this post.

Do we really want Auckland to be a fruit salad of players (ooops it is now) from many different countries of origin? Do we really want to see the Western Force sign all the players from Christchurch boys high school 1st 15 with the promise of massive salaries?  (Ok maybe not in year one, but these new super rugby rules will be the yellow brick road for these changes !).

There may be a serious economic slowdown around the corner and the business of rugby will not escape a consumer lead recession.  So SANZAR priority must be to develop the quality of the product to ensure its survival. I get the real feeling that a lot of the super rugby changes will be throw of the dice and hope ! The fan is at the mercy of the pinheads running the game.

Some much needed guidelines for the Rugby Administrator:

1) See post on this blog, Win back the Fans. I have just read and article by Paul Lewis: NZRU in need of outside help to revitalise game , here there is no mention of the ELVs, I would estimate that the ELVs and the Checkers vs Chess posts cover at least 60% of the problem. Another article by Richard Loe: Tough encounter guide to All Blacks stating that the Blues vs Crusaders super rugby game on 25-4-08 was the ‘best game of the season’, and I thought that if this game was the RWC final it would be a massive embarrassment to world rugby  (see my review on the  ELVs post UPDATE2 at the bottom).  Where have the deep thinking philosophers of the game gone?

2) The best fan draw card is a contest between great teams, good players are secondary. Robbie Deans TV advert quote ‘A great team will always beat a great player !’ I would add a great rugby chess game within the contest is the best draw card of all.

3) Rugby fan loyalty has always been geographically based. If you are an Aucklander born and bred then Auckland will be your team. However this fan loyalty may be severely tested if the players are not Aucklanders born and bred. This is the tribe vs tribe theory. How are the Warriors doing with there 6 Aussie players, didn’t Eric Watson say he wanted to beat the Aussies at there own game (with Kiwis) ? A sound fan base is built best on the tribe theory and not the fickle ‘we won last week’ theory.

4) Get super rugby on free to view TV and or internet (Delayed, most likely).

5) Dont over charge at the stadium gate. There have been some very high ticket prices set for game’s. I think the French at the RWC 2007 did a fantastic job of getting attendance by packaging multiple games together for a single ticket.

6) Maintain national identity within super rugby teams. For the NZFRU to allow a New Zealander like ‘Dan Carter’ or ‘Jona Lomu’ to play for a non New Zealand super rugby side for $1.5 mil just so you can keep him happy and allow him to be in the national squad is opening the door for a rugby mad billionaire to come along and buy (say) the ‘Western Force’ and fill his team ‘star’ players at sky high prices. Oops the dawn of a soccer style rugby club. Then the ‘price’ of star players will have no limit. This will prove to be a major fundamental error of SANZAR. If a player wants the money then let him go, and dont allow him to be selected for international duties. The SANZAR unions must hold onto the international duties as there only valuable bargaining chip, once this is gone, they are doomed. No individual or group of players is greater than the game. So let them go! When the famed coach of the rugby league team the Broncos ‘Wayne Bennett’ had players demanding top dollar, after years of developing the young players up thru the grades, his response was ‘See ya latter!’. Yet players a like Allan Langer and Darren Lockyer never left the Broncos club for the big bucks. Loyalty, team culture and a sense of family is worth more to a player than cash. If it’s not let them go, you will never win with cash motivated player! Currently super rugby has a major fan pull of tribe vs tribe, thats Blues (tribe:NZ) vs  Brumbies (tribe:AUS), and it would be negative to see ‘Harlequins’ (tribe ?) vs ‘Badgers’ (tribe ?). It is not so much the individual match up of Dan Carter vs Stephen Bretts, its not tennis dude, it is a team (and combinations) contest.

7) Tax Break. Ok lets do the sums, NZ has about 150 professional players, lets say the player average income is $130,000 per year. That is gross revenue of $19.5 Mil, tax to the IRD at 30% equals $5.8 Mil. Lets give the players a tax rate of 15%. So thats reduced the players tax bill by 50% and the government looses $2.4 mil. But do they? If the commercial spin offs from professional rugby were to die off then the tax revenues lost from a poor performing super and international rugby season would be much greater than $2.4 mil. Would the government offer such a tax break, well the gave the Americas Cup Team $30 Mil plus, and there has been little return so far!

8) Create a SANZAR (and/or NZRFU) Official Super Rugby Internet Email Forum. An email forum where threads can be posted by the fan and answered by administrators and officials. Participation from the union CEO down to the touch judge is critical to the effectiveness of such a forum. The English RFU have such a forum were I have often seen administrators partake in ‘one on one’ fan issue discussions. This is a must have ! They are currently running a forum thread on the ELVs, good on the English RFU ! (If there is one already I cant find it !)

9) Player exodus. What benefit is it to french rugby to have a club like Toulon import so many foreign players just to get it out of the second division. This setup is purely a billionaires play thing, how does a flood of non french players improve the opportunities of french rugby players (Example, just consider the depth and experience of english soccer players for there national side). The player exodus is fueled by supplied side economics, that is the supply of money from a non central body, the control is not with a central rugby union. Therefore the central union should fight back and cap the number of foreign players per team. IRB please step up! Correct me if I am wrong, didn’t English cricket step and cap the number of foreign players for each county side.

10) This article is so important Pinetree blasts All Blacks coaches, NZRU. I bet before the day is over he will be rubbished and written off as a silly old fart and completely ignored.

This part is priceless…

The report was on the RWC 2007 failure.

“When the report was out [this month] the only one who was discredited was Richie McCaw because he didn’t instruct someone to have a dropped goal. Yet Graham Henry swears he sent down messages to them. What the bloody hell is rugby coming to? You have someone sitting in the box and trying to get a message to the captain.

“In our days we weren’t even allowed to leave the field at halftime. Once the game was on the captain was in charge and you never even heard from the coach until after the game.

“I think we’re getting over-coached and over- organised. You now have four selectors, a tackling coach, a scrum coach, a lineout coach and you have a couple of technical advisers. Now, which of those buggers do you have to listen to?”


Join the fight to save the game, start a blog, email NZRFU.