Report says rugby is too confusing to grow
“Rugby is suffering from declining crowds, ratings and interest in the crowded Australian sports market, local media reported on Monday, citing market research commissioned by the game’s administrators.” This report makes sobering reading for Australian rugby fans.
Aussies love a winner, and when Johnny Wilkinson kicked England to the World Cup in that 2003 final in Sydney maybe he also unwittingly kicked Rugby Australia into touch as well.
Since that World Cup Final Rugby has ruck and mauled its way down the list of favourites sports played, watched and supported by Australians. It hasn’t helped that the team has hardly won a meaningful game in that period.
And crucially, not mentioned in the report, since that 2003 date, I believe the Socceroos and football have taken over from the men of gold as our favourite national football team.
Maybe they always were.
FIFA World Cup appearances, and numerous Asian Cup and World Cup qualifiers across Asia have given the large grassroot base a national team to support, and to watch, like never before.
And this time we all understand the game.
Where once George Gregan and his mates plastered Weetbix packs, now Timmy Cahill and company greet our Aussie mites. They are a better fit for sponsors, families and kids it would seem.
Do the test: ask any kid if they’ve heard of Wallaby captain Rocky Elsom or Socceroo captain Lucas Neill.
This latest report confirms what many have been saying on this site for sometime. It’s union that faces the biggest challenges of the four football codes.
The Olympic 7s, less games against the All Blacks, and inclusion of Argentina in the Four Nations, and a Super 15 team in Melbourne are all worthy steps to grow the game at the top end.
But the report left me wondering two things:
If union cannot grow its grassroots base, and I don’t believe it can, it may never be able to truly grow its top end attendances now the Socceroos and football are really in town.
Secondly, the confusing and complicated nature of the sport mean that if you never play the game you may never understand it, and in a crowded football marketplace, it will become increasingly difficult to convert Aussies to become passionate rusted on fans of the game.
A chink of light for union fans?
With the aging Socceroos unlikely to match their German World Cup performance (unless we get a very favourable draw) and qualification for the 2014 World Cup very unlikely given our current crop of young players, union needs to take advantage of football’s aging golden generation exiting stage right.
But can they?
The Roar is giving you the chance to win 1 of 19 prize packs to Australian Open 2014! Each lucky winner will receive four evening tickets to Rod Laver Arena, plus access to 3 hours in the Heineken VIP Bar. Enter here.