NZRU doesn’t like you (especially you South Island)

I’ve never been a fan of the NZRU (Rugby Union). Many of their decisions are hard to understand and more often than not recently they have seen to be following the dollar over the development of the game in this country.

This is great for me, Football – (the beautiful game – round ball, the worlds game) is my sport of choice. Having said that, during the 80s Canterbury Ranfulry Shield era, I didn’t miss one Canterbury game, and can remember getting up in the middle of the night with my dad to watch test matches, not to mention those mid week games for the ‘dirt trackers’ that has long gong from the game. Robbie Dean ‘give it a boot Robbie’ was the greatest until Andrew Merthens came along that is, and despite what is almost obvious, I’d have Merts in my team over Carter any day. Mind you I’d still pick Ken Rutherford in my NZ team of the decade 1990s.

Anyway back to the NZRU. First came the incomprehensible twaddle from them last week that the South Island (well any part of the country outside of Auckland) isn’t fit to host a really big rugby match, and thus the two Semi Finals and Final of the Rugby World Cup in 2011 will be in Auckland. My initial reaction is unprintable (even in the blogosphere), but then that turned to uncontrollable laughter when I read their reasonings.

This from stuff web site last week.

Bryan Pearson, chief executive of AMI Stadium administrator Vbase, said they had tried to overcome the various hurdles to hosting semifinals in different cities but it became clear that moving 30,000 people between Christchurch and Auckland in 24 hours was an impossible task.

I don’t get it.

Is the final of the RWC on a Wednesday or Thursday and the final that Saturday? What do they mean getting that many people to Auckland in 1 day? Last years world cup saw the semi finals played a whole week before the final. This just doesn’t make sense? I’ve driven (if that’s what they need to do) between CHCH and Auckland and it can be done in less than 24hrs if you get the right ferry crossing. So assuming they are going with the old format to help the bodies recover and have a good fair final, there is a week between the semi finals and the final.

I would have thought the prospect of 30-50,000 people touring the country for a week, spending their money willy nilly the length and breadth of the county would have been a sumptuous prospect for the Minister responsible for the RWS. It seems that it was impossible to get all those people from CHCH to Wellington for the second semi final. The most obvious choice and sensible choice for the development of the game (and showcasing of the country to the world) was Semi Final 1 in CHCH on the Friday night and Semi Final 2 in Wgtn on the Saturday night. Now assuming that Wellington can’t muster up a sold out sign for a rugby world cup semi final, then it still would have given 24hrs for all those people to get to Wellington (failing a Hurricane – excuse the pun) this is more than able to be done with a little imagination. I mean they bought a cruise ship out here for the Lions tour, why not get a couple to do a CHCH-Wgtn run and make money out of them that way. Oh I know, really seal it off, Dave Dobbyn could play on the boat (Ok I’m taking the piss now).

But here’s where the truth comes out (not some twaddle about shifting people).

The tournament is expected to bring in about $280m in ticket sales but still make about a $30m loss.

With the host nation only able to make money out of ticket sales (yeah right), a match out of Auckland and it’s extra capacity suburban venue would cost the NZRFU and extra $10million dollars. So we are hosting an event that we are already going to loose $30million dollars and they would have known all along about the losses if games were played out of Auckland. So the mere suggestion of a game out of Auckland was only playing the country along for a ride. What the hell are we doing hosting an event that we are going to loose $30million dollars anyway. We all know that Rugby is a religion in this country and like a religion, you are not allowed to question the authority of the masters. If New Zealand Football (soccer) said they were going to host the Football World Cup, but it would cost us $30m loss, the whole country would have laughed and the media and politicians would have had a field day.

Forget the smokescreen about the geography of the country determining that outside of Auckland won’t host a semi final, the real reason is money, and they knew it all along (or they should be sacked for not knowing the sums).

But then hot on the heels of this fan hating decision comes yet another “we are taking the fans for a joke” decision. Today the NZRU announced that there will be a 4th Bledisloe Cup match to be played between Australia and NZ in Hong Kong! The most valuable silverware contested between the two countries will be played in neither.

The expected multi-million dollar pay day seems was just too attractive for the respective rugby unions. And that is what it is all about, money. Listen to this twaddle from the chief executive of NZRU

We are excited to accept Hong Kong’s invitation to stage the first rugby international in Asia to feature two of the world’s top teams,” said NZRU chief executive Steve Tew

Cool, developing the game in other areas of the world that it doesn’t really need developing in. Hong Kong already has the preeminent 7’s tournament in the world the Hong Kong 7s. Hong Kong doesn’t have an internationally competitive full senior rugby team (well one that can be taken seriously that is). What Hong Kong has is big pockets and even bigger TV audiences, and that folks is the nub of it. NZRU is not developing rugby in other regions it is looking for a dirty big check. If the NZRU was concerned about developing rugby in other areas, it would do no better than looking at home, where even some if not all of the larger unions are operating at a loss. Bay of Plenty is on the verge of going broke, club rugby is in a mess and ‘roots’ rugby is in a shambles. The idea that they are taking the two teams over to Asia to develop the game is a joke, they are doing it for the money only.

With millions watching on television around the world this is rugby at its best and a real showcase for Hong Kong, said HKRFU executive director Allan Payne

Fantastic, what about the millions watching the RWC around the world and showcase for the rest of NZ.

The Hong Kong Rugby Union will jump all over the prized match, running youth and club tournaments in the week leading up to the match. Discussions are also taking place regarding a curtain-raiser between Hong Kong and China.

And we couldn’t do something similar up and down NZ between the semi finals and final over a weeks period?

The NZRU is a sports body that has handled the transition to professionalism with varying degrees of success. The super 8,12 & 14 competition have been a success, as has the tri-nations. However the Pacific Islands (who have provided NZ with their biggest money draw cards for the last 15 years) is continually overlooked. Would it kill the NZRU to have a test in Suva or Apia, seemingly so. Don’t start me on Argentina, whom let’s face it were every bit as good as the All Blacks at the last world cup. And as for meaningful tours of countries with mid week games and a proper test series, they are all but a thing of the past.

The NZRU thinks it can strip away the traditions that rugby was built on in NZ, the traditional rivalries (club and provincial level), the afternoon games, the full tours (France v Otago in the new indoor stadium anyone?) and old rivalries. When was the last time the All Blacks played in Mendoza in Argentina (pop near million at the base of the Andes, stunning location – huge TV audience )?

Final thought. The first Rugby World Cup hosted and won by NZ in 1987 was 21 years since England won the 1966 football world cup, for which we were mercilessly taking the piss over their clinging on to old glories. If NZ doesn’t win the 2011 Rugby World Cup, there would have been 24 years between cup glories for apparently the best team in the world. How long will the country continue to believe that the All Blacks are the best in the world resting on our past world cup glories? It seems despite the track record and the treatment of the public by the NZRU, the public of NZ and more importantly the media, but this whole “we are the best in the world” rubbish.

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