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It seems to me that the ARU has lost sight of commercial reality.
There is an elephant in the room. Whoops, sorry, or is it just an ant. No one can see it and no one wants to speak about it. Move on and nobody will get hurt or say anything!
We are in a commercially-driven world where results are everything, and where tough decisions are made every day for the benefit of the company we work in. We all agree that sport is now a business. So why is it that we are finding it hard to make the easy decisions?
In commerce, if a business is failing, then the decisions are made to retrench, centralise resources, back off a bit and re-build.
I think we can all agree that Australian rugby is not just in the doldrums, they are being blown backwards at a rate of knots. Not just on the field but in the boardroom, and in the marketplace as well. And nobody has seen the light to make those harsh decisions.
Let’s break it down for you to fully understand. Poor results mean no bums on seats. No bums on seats means no income. No income mean finish. Simple.
At present the ARU are hoping for a miracle of results (on the field, in the board room and perhaps in court) to re-sell the bums on seats that they need to rejuvenate the game and bring the people back.
Reality is that’s just not going to happen. Even a victory over Italy in Brisbane this weekend is not the answer to the problem. Or thou a loss would certainly spell even greater disaster for them.
The ARU need to take control, and make that hard decision to scrap both the Rebels and the Force. But importantly, they must stay in the Super Rugby competition. They need to still compete against the Kiwis and South Africa. They also need to build better relations with grassroots, retain the NRC, whether that format is right or not is another debate, but keep the Super Rugby going!
Why both franchises then?
Neither team really have the cattle to compete. In fact, Australia doesn’t have the cattle to support five teams in Super Rugby. Sure, they win a few games now and then, but are they really competitive all the time? Remember the Aussie teams are 0 from 23 against New Zealand teams this year in Super Rugby. This goes back to the point of centralising resources. Enough said!
The Rebels – In Melbourne, rugby is fighting a losing battle to establish the code against the might and power of the AFL, the already established NRL Storm, and two football clubs, the Victory and the City. I know Melbourne is a sporting city, but really, the dollar can only go so far.
The NRL invested wisely and brought some real talent to Melbourne in the form of both players and coaches. And they gained wins on the field and have been able to continue to build the brand of a winning team.
They have some buy-in from the locals because they are consistently competitive. They may struggle once the likes of Cameron Smith and Billy Slater retire, but I’m sure they have a plan in place for that.
The Rebels on the other hand haven’t really won anything. They haven’t made finals and are just really making up the numbers to a very weak Australian Conference. The ARU have allowed them to set up, and meander along. But they really haven’t looked like a team who is going to achieve anything soon, and they are not really contributing meaningful to the growth of the game here in Australia.
The same can be said about the Force. The play week in week out, without any real results. No outstanding contributions towards the growth of the game, and nothing in the trophy cabinet. They too are simply making up the numbers.
If the ARU centralise the resources, it will mean some players will have to move offshore to further their personal rugby ambitions or drop down to the tier below where they are at. But quite frankly they are not cutting it here in the first place at the Super Rugby level. There will also be some displacement from the three remaining teams as well, as they cannot continue to have players who are not up to it.
In the commercial world, they call it a few things. Redundancy, layoffs, disestablishment of positions. Call it what you like, it’s commercial reality.
So some local ACT, NSW and Queensland players will also be laid-off. Perhaps some of those who are over the hill and playing on reputation rather than form should look further abroad for future income. France and Japan come to mind. Then those who are of the right quality from the Force or the Rebels can slot into the remaining franchises.
The ARU can then rebuild by centralising their resources, build stronger teams and get better results.
Just like the good old days of Australian rugby where Australia held the Bledisloe Cup of five years in a row. This was 1998-2002. There were three Super Rugby teams, centralised resources, and combinations that worked together.
I think they might have even won a world cup or two back in the day.
Okay, so I’m a Kiwi, that doesn’t take from the passion for the game I love so much, and as a rugby diehard, it pains me to see the runner-up in the most recent world cup struggling so very badly in the two years since.
So it wasn’t an elephant after all, just some blokes unwilling to make the hard calls
When it comes to the structure of the game in Australia, the running of the game at the grassroots and the integration of school rugby, then just don’t get me started.