The Asian market is there for the taking, so let’s think like Twiggy

Rhys Bosley Roar Rookie

By Rhys Bosley, Rhys Bosley is a Roar Rookie

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    There is an awful lot of public naysaying and fretting about Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forest’s proposed renegade Indo-Pacific rugby competition, but if it improves the quality of rugby in Australia, surely it must be possible.

    Commentators are saying that it can’t work because there isn’t enough money in it and because there isn’t enough talent in Asia for it to succeed. Others tell us it will hurt Australian rugby. Those who are worried are not particularly clear about why, but presumably, they think that the competition will pinch Australian players and viewers from Super Rugby.

    All of the worries seem to be stopping people from considering the opportunities that Forest’s proposed rugby venture has for Australian rugby. It is, after all, the biggest developing market in the world.

    Here are a couple of facts to consider that Forest, since he is a billionaire, undoubtedly thought of before he put his name to this idea.

    Fact number one: there are over four billion people in Asia, who are getting richer and will want to enjoy the luxuries that higher disposable incomes will allow them to purchase.

    That is an absolutely enormous potential market for rugby.

    Rugby already has a foothold in a number of Asian countries including Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

    All the discussion seems to be about whether or not the Western Force will be well enough supported to commercially succeed, but in reality, the commercial objective of the competition should be to grow Asian broadcasting revenues.

    Successfully cultivate those and any takings at the gate at NIB Stadium would be dwarfed by the Asian audiences watching the game on TV.

    Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco Sunwolves Super Rugby Union 2017

    (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

    Fact number two: the concerns about the standard of the competition are a complete nonsense. There are plenty of professional sporting leagues that operate without access to the best talent in the world: A-League football and Arena Football in the United States are two primary examples.

    Audiences want to be able to follow a team that they identify with, in an entertaining and competitive competition format and there is no reason why that can’t happen in an Indo-Pacific rugby championship.

    Moreover, it won’t take long before standards in those countries increase due to the competition. Think about the Australian Women’s Sevens rugby team, athletes from entirely different sports were trained into an Olympic Gold winning team over the course of just four years. There is no reason to believe that existing and new rugby players in the Indo-Pacific cannot be bought up to a high standard at a similar speed.

    So instead of the naysaying and fretting, Australian rugby commentators could be thinking about the opportunities a competition like this could provide for Australian rugby.

    It could provide the first step into non-Japan Asia which could in the long term help to integrate Australian rugby in our region. This could potentially provide multiple new competitions for fans and commercial opportunities close to home for teams, players, coaches – both male and female – and the Australian union’s themselves.

    These are opportunities that we can only dream of with our little domestic rugby market and I think they have the potential to make Australian rugby great again if only we are smart about making the most of them!