Afternoon rugby Tests a must
The message was loud and clear to ARU boss John O’Neill last Saturday – bring back afternoon Test matches, and give night Tests the permanent punt.
Rugby fans voted with their feet. Allianz Stadium was virtually chockers for the third and final Test against Wales, setting a rugby record 42,889 in the heartland of the 15-man code.
The previous record was 41,917 against the All Blacks in 1994. The all-time record – 43,967 for the FIFA World Cup qualifier between the Socceroos and Argentina in 1993.
Last Saturday was an emphatic reminder to the ARU the fans know what they want, and it’s not Homebush, nor the night.
Many fans want to take their kids to watch the Wallabies, and enjoy the outing as a family unit. Not having to bed them down at midnight by the time they get home irritable and worn out, taking all the enjoyment out of the exercise.
And for the adults who go it alone, or with a team of mates, to kick off with drinks or lunch at the Captain Cook, the Lord Dudley, Dolphin, or Paddington Green just to name a few, is rugby heaven.
Those same fans can’t do that at ANZ Stadium, it’s a venue without soul.
Those facts have firmly placed the ARU between a rock and a hard place. And it’s all about cold hard cash.
The potential gate from 80,000 at ANZ Stadium for a Test against the All Blacks or Boks, with the vast majority wanting to see the Test in the flesh, but not wanting to be at Homebush, and begrudging the fact they have been forced to – and at night.
Or the 43,000 at Allianz enjoying every minute from the time they leave home until their return for an afternoon Test, and be home for dinner.
Which translates to the chase for the almighty dollar in sport at the expense of those providing it – the fans.
And the chase extends to naming rights for stadiums.
Stadium Australia hosted the 2000 Olympic Games. In 2002 it became Telstra Stadium, in 2007 ANZ Stadium when it should have been named Sydney Olympic Park from the beginning and left alone.
Lansdowne Road, the home of Irish rugby and the oldest rugby ground in the world, built in 1872, is now Aviva Stadium.
Ellis Park, the famous home of South African rugby, is now Coca Cola Park.
In 2006 English Premier League side Arsenal went from their traditional home ground Highbury to the Emirates Stadium.
And the Sydney Football Stadium since 1988 is now Allianz Stadium.
There are countless examples all round the world where famous sporting venues now carry the sponsor’s name. A tragedy of the times and meaningless to the sportslover.
Can you imagine Lords, Wimbledon, St Andrews, the MCG, or the SCG losing their iconic identity to the almighty dollar?
Not bloody likely.
The sands of time bring change, no argument with that, but when the fans demand it, some things should never be altered.
Afternoon rugby, including Super Rugby, is high on that list.
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