Will grassroots and professional rugby ever embrace each other?

It is a given that national unions strive to improve and maintain the ranking of their Test sides, because they (rightly) assume that fans want World Cup success, and teams that play competitive, attractive rugby in the years in between. This demands the retention and availability of the best players, and that the pull of increasingly elevated pay packets in the northern hemisphere is countered, via focus and funding for the elite tier of the game, primarily through the protection and enhancement of broadcasting rights revenue.

At the other end of the spectrum are hard-working rugby people who have become frustrated by the neglect of schools and club rugby, a lack of appreciation for their efforts and the failure of national bodies to direct sufficient resources to ensure the attraction and retention of children to the game and to maintain the fabric of club rugby.

So frustrated that some of them would prefer to see the elite, professional administration of the game collapse, no matter the consequences.

Toby Lawson and Brett Papworth talk about the upcoming season during the 2008 Shute Shield season launch held at the IBM Terrace Sydney Football Stadium March 25, 2008 in Sydney, Australia.

Brett Papworth (r) has grown tired of SANZAAR.

Ex-Wallaby Brett Papworth is one of these, last year imploring the ARU (now Rugby Australia) to “Tell SANZAAR that it’s over, and if it costs us money to get out, then who cares, because it is currently being wasted on the wrong things anyway.”

“The simple fact is that we, the rugby public, don’t care anymore.”

Meanwhile the ‘sensible centre’ wonders why rugby administrators – national, state and club – struggle to find a happy medium where the primary objective is to simultaneously ensure the health of elite, professional rugby and grassroots rugby, and to ensure that free interaction and engagement between the two occurs seamlessly.

The situation faced by cash-strapped rugby administrators in any country that isn’t England or France is far more nuanced and difficult than many fans care to credit them. But should that excuse an inability to identify the issues that matter most to people who play and support the game, and to communicate with them in a way that informs and engages them, rather than antagonises?

The following excerpts from the book speak to this discordance:


“Any ageing rugby fan who yearns for the amateur game they once played — where rugby seemed less complex and more pure, and the social focus on the clubhouse more intense and regular — knows in his or her heart that that genie is never going back in the bottle. Not all of the changes are because of rugby; significant shifts in society around laws and attitudes to drink-driving, the emergence of discount booze shops, technological advances allowing for matches from all around the world to be beamed live into high definition TVs and mobile devices, and the sheer number of alternative leisure options have changed forever the dynamic and the economics of rugby clubs everywhere.

Unsurprisingly, it is money that is at the heart of the change. Amateur rugby was an equalizer. Some from outside of England and Australia might see this as ironic because of rugby’s reputation as a private school pursuit, but the reality is that rugby has been predominantly classless. Where every participant, from club president down to a lowly fifth-grade player, from masseur to the mothers, wives and girlfriends cooking meals in the kitchen in exchange for a mention in the captain’s speech, did what they did for no recompense. Whether a club was the hub of a small country town, or located in a major city, the structure, operation and way of being was essentially the same. All of it manned by, and reliant upon, volunteers.

As we’ve heard from David Humphreys and others from that era, the early days of professional rugby amounted to little more than players receiving money for doing what they did when they were amateur. Train, play and drink in high rotation. For the average club member and fan of the game, this aligned with their notion of what professional rugby meant; a bit of cash for the players but no fundamental change to the game itself and the way they engaged with it.

In the two decades since the advent of professionalism that notion has been well and truly blown out the water. One key aspect was determining which parts of the game were professional and which were amateur; how far the money trickled down if you like. National unions were immediately required to act and operate as commercial enterprises as they transitioned from amateur governance structures, often having to work through and around people who had given years of service but who lacked the skills or experience
for this new commercial world. Provincial unions mostly followed the same path, often with difficulty, their boards full of club delegates, amateur in every sense of the word. Below them, clubs struggled to determine where they fitted in, many discovering that the notion of raising money to pass it straight on to players was pointless, given that for their better players, there was always a club in the next suburb, town or valley willing and able to pay more. Other clubs decided that local bragging rights justified stumping up cash to keep the best players within their fold.

The early days of professional rugby amounted to little more than players receiving money for doing what they did when they were amateur. Train, play and drink in high rotation.

The profit-and-loss account of a typical amateur rugby club, presented to the AGM once a year by the honorary treasurer, was something easily understood by club stalwarts. Revenue came from player subscriptions, perhaps a local sponsorship or two (although these were more usually for services in kind as opposed to cash), raffles and bar takings. A home win in a big match often meant the difference between a new set of jerseys for a junior team, or squeezing another year out of the old ones. New or renovated clubhouses were built by volunteer labour, often funded by the issue of debentures, honoured by bricks in the foyer bearing the names of proud contributors.

The impact of professional rugby on these clubs’ financial accounts came mostly on the cost side; match payments to keep leading players at the club, and a full-time manager to run the club were the start but not the end of it, as clubs hesitantly looked to each other for a benchmark in how to operate. Where things fell down was the scale of the cost increases, which weren’t matched on the revenue side. Clubs found that the captive market for meat raffles was finite and that the scope for this type of fund-raiser was now insufficient to make an impact on rapidly rising expense lines. Further, as more rigid drink-drive law enforcement, and better TV coverage began to entice people to stay at home more, and player numbers began to shrink, particularly in the regions, clubs struggled to maintain their revenue bases let alone grow them.

The concept of the volunteer didn’t easily co-exist with professionalism. Club members on the end of a broom or a paintbrush, or doing their shift behind the bar, did so willingly, for the love of the club, when all of them were in the same boat. But putting in the same volunteer shift, alongside someone doing exactly the same thing, but who was on a salary? Well that didn’t make a lot of sense to most people.

For the majority of rugby clubs there was no template or expert consultant provided to help them work through the transition phase; essentially they were left to sink or swim. The only realistic solution, which some figured out faster than others, was to stay amateur. Rugby might have become professional, but not all rugby could be so. New Zealand Herald journalist Dylan Cleaver, in his excellent online series The Book of Rugby, quoted Greg McGee – among many things Richie McCaw’s biographer — who said, “Professional rugby has galloped away from grassroots and is more or less part of the entertainment matrix now. Again, rugby is reflecting what is going on in New Zealand. To me, it’s never been a leader. In some respects rugby clubs remain the glue that binds communities but it has never been a leader of societal change.”

Italian sausages were hot items during the opening ceremonies of the Boston Red Sox's home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers at Fenway Park on Friday, April 4, 2014.

You can’t run a rugby club on sausage sizzle revenue anymore.

The formal establishment of a professional tier, a level of competition for elite players in all major countries, below international level became the basic line of demarcation. That sounds like a clean and tidy natural evolution—save for those bankrupted or distressed clubs who simply ran out of members, or too late discovered they were too small to act big in a world not meant for them. Accordingly the framework for what is professional and what is amateur rugby has mostly become known and understood. That there are some clubs still today with identity issues or tip-toeing through an amateur/professional minefield speaks to the blind determination of some club administrators to deny the inevitable and, also perhaps, feed off a victim mentality.

One of those pockets exists in Sydney club rugby, where proud clubs that have been ‘top dog’ for over 140 years fought bitterly against the idea of being afforded a comparatively lowly, amateur status. Instead, they have chosen to maintain a semi-professional competition that many members believe represents the rightful development tier for Australian rugby when compared to the manufactured model of the NRC. Theirs is effectively affirmation of the English model, where clubs assume precedence over provinces and regions, but without sufficient numbers of solvent, competitive clubs, without a large enough audience or any television rights revenue, and with the leading players contracted centrally through the ARU, they remain impossibly wedged.

Interestingly, Sydney’s premier club rugby competition, the Shute Shield, has been shown on commercial free-to-air television (one match per week) since 2015, although this comes at a cost; the Sydney Rugby Union (SRU) guaranteeing the broadcaster, Network Seven, A$300,000 for 2015 and A$500,000 for 2016, as opposed to receiving payment for the content. To make matters worse, while it was the SRU who negotiated the television arrangement—effectively owning it as their deal—they discovered that they did not have the means to pay for it, and the ARU was asked to bail them out. At the same time, a number of those same clubs were actively conspiring to sabotage the ARU’s fledgling NRC competition – yet another bewildering example of how, when the lines between professional and amateur rugby administration become blurred, nothing good comes of it.

Australia’s current rugby angst is not dissimilar to that experienced by Wales, a rugby nation that struggled to adapt to professionalism and has paid a heavy price ever since. None of this should have come as a surprise, given that the template provided by British football, a game professional for 110 years longer, is now being mirrored by professional rugby, albeit on a smaller scale.


“The difference between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ is starkly illustrated in British football. We have already been introduced to author David Goldblatt who, in his superb deconstruction of the professional game in the UK, The Game of Our Lives; the meaning and making of English football, lays bare the innards of the beautiful game. Indeed, all is not so beautiful. In a nation where “football reflects the main trends of economic and social change in Britain,” Goldblatt charts the evolution of football in the post-industrial global economy, its inevitable polarization, and ponders, “whether the best it can manage is to be the canary in the mine of our (the UK’s) impending global mediocrity and domestic fragmentation.” These are lofty ambitions for rugby to aspire to.

In their excellent account of the demise of the once mighty Welsh valleys rugby club Pontypool, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: the rise and fall of Pontypool RFC, authors Nick Bishop and Alun Carter outlined myriad factors contributing to the ‘Poolers’’ descent into relative obscurity. But, above all of the stubborn club personalities refusing to adapt to a changing world, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) adopting a regional strategy at the expense of traditional clubs, the Newport rugby club refusing to embrace other clubs and redrafting the boundary of the Gwent region to a small circle of land straddling the M4, the single factor that most contributed to, and indeed ensured, Pontypool’s demise was the economic devastation which occurred to towns and mining communities in the valleys. The economic haemorrhaging of the southern valley towns in the late 1970s and 80s affected families at every level, and resulted in a diminishing of local manufacturing and community pride, and de-population to an extent that many of the towns and villages, their high streets and their rugby clubs, can never again be what they were.

David Bishop of Pontypool kicks the ball for touch during a match against Australia at The Park in Pontypool, Wales.

Pontypool were a Welsh powerhouse in their heyday, as seen here in a 1984 clash with the Wallabies. (Photo: Allsport UK/Allsport)

The painful irony is that it was the exact opposite that laid the foundation for what was perhaps Wales’ greatest golden era, in the early 1970s. In his rugby history, Huw Richards described the social change in post-war Wales and how Barry John, Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies, legends all of them; “…were born into mining families in south-west Wales between 1945 and 1947, grew up in the new dawn of publicly-owned pits and free healthcare and fulfilled parental dreams of escaping the pit via the classic Welsh working-class route into teaching.” What the earth giveth, the earth taketh away.

Whatever one’s opinion of Baroness Thatcher, neither she or her government, or macro-economic forces alone, can wear all of the blame for the decline of Welsh rugby, at least not in every club’s case. By its very definition, professional sport implies the generation and distribution of money; derived from the sport, for the sport and because of the sport, and it is self-evident that where there are more people there is more economic activity and a bigger market, at every level; club, provincial, national and within the sport itself. What follows is the greater likelihood of financial success, and following from that, success on the field. In places where economic activity surges, communities spring up and infrastructure, including new sports clubs, follows. When boom turns to bust, often as suddenly as it arrived, the dissolution of those sports clubs and the role they play in the social fabric of those communities is inevitability more drawn out and painful. A rugby club with ample manpower for two teams finds itself at the start of next season with barely thirty players — then twenty the next. Then, with a few injuries and another couple of transfers out of the region, it begins to default matches, unable to field a side, despite long retired club stalwarts pledging to come out of retirement to save the club. To imagine that professional sport can be successfully undertaken and managed in such a declining environment is fanciful.

Whatever one’s opinion of Baroness Thatcher, neither she or her government, or macro-economic forces alone, can wear all of the blame for the decline of Welsh rugby.

To that end, Goldblatt’s tour of the UK, while not at all surprising, is drenched in misery. Vivid images abound of small football grounds, once the pulsing heart of towns and cities all across the UK, now decrepit, closed due to health and safety concerns, or else host only to a few meagre hard-core fans and family members, watching their loved ones slog it out in a lowly semi-professional league.

Rugby’s version of the same is beautifully captured in a pictorial essay by Tom Jenkins, with words by Donald McCrae, published in the Guardian in 2013, documenting the leaching of the spirit from the Welsh game, as a direct outcome of economic flight and societal changes which no longer provide enough able-bodied and/or enthusiastic players and supporters to sustain healthy local rugby clubs. It is as if the saying ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ was invented for Jenkins’ portrait of Maesteg rugby coach Richard Webster, captured alone in a cold, dank changing room, in equal measures steely determination and despair, wondering how and where he would be able to find enough players to field a team for Maesteg’s next fixture.

Founded in 1877, with a history typical of many other similarly-proud Welsh provincial clubs, Maesteg barely limped through the advent of professional rugby and the imposition of regional teams by the WRU and, aside from a brief sojourn into the Welsh Premier Divison in 2005, oscillated around the nether regions of WRU Division One West Central. As if things weren’t difficult enough, a modest clubhouse refurbishment was destroyed in an arson attack in 2013, along with precious club memorabilia. Then in 2016 the club lost an unfair dismissal claim after a barmaid accused of stealing money was found by a work tribunal to have been “deeply violated” by the actions of the club’s bar manager, calling her a “ho” and a “thieving bitch” on Facebook. The club was lumped with a £6600 fine, plus payment for loss of wages; money it could ill afford to lose. Nothing if not resilient, the club forged on, the senior squad enjoying a winning season in 2016/17, and fielding teams at under 16 and under 14 level; providing at least some glimmer of hope for continuity into the future.

Courtesy of its geographic location, a little to the east of Swansea and Neath, Maesteg today serves as a ‘feeder club’ to its regional Pro 12 club, the Ospreys, although with the advent of player pathways through youth academies coupled with overseas signings, the chance that a player ripping it to shreds for Maesteg one week might be parachuted into the Ospreys the next is nil. Simultaneously this represents the necessary gulf between amateur club and professional rugby, and the disconnect between the heartland clubs and the regions that were imposed upon them; issues that, thirteen years later, are still suffocating Welsh rugby.

Neath is where I find Bishop; a lanky, laconic Anglo-Welshman with a foot in both camps, a rugby analyst and writer widely-regarded as one of the sharpest intellects in the game; a strategic playmaker trapped in a lock’s body. We walk to the Castle Hotel, a historic site where the inaugural meeting of the Welsh Rugby Union took place on the 12th March 1881. Our nod to history doesn’t extend to the bar however; Nick orders a flat white and I an Italian beer; both unlikely to have been on the menu back then. Settling in for the afternoon, he points to clear differences between Wales and England and France which are at the heart of Welsh rugby’s woes.

The historic plaque outside the Castle Hotel.

The historic plaque outside the Castle Hotel. (Image: Nick Bishop)

“Post-professionalism, in Wales they started by trying to walk upside down, where they had benefactors in the game, who have since left, leaving behind a black hole in terms of finance. As a result, the only person or institution left in the game in Wales who can afford to spend significant money or buy leading players is the Welsh union itself. By comparison, in England and most definitely in France, those benefactors are still there. So there is this very strong co-dependency between the Welsh regions and the union; where if the union was to withdraw its prop, the regions would collapse.

“Welsh rugby is still recovering from that situation, where it put the national side first and club rugby a very definite and distant second. It put all of its marbles into one basket, very similar to what Australia did. Both countries have really depended on international success, Wales in the Six Nations and Australia in the Bledisloe Cup and World Cups, and tried to be successful first in those arenas to bring in the money; Wales mostly so it can pay off the debt for the National Stadium. Unfortunately, not a lot of that money has got recycled back into the layers below the international game. That’s why in Wales a lot of the traditional clubs have gone to the wall, or got to the point
where they can only field one side on a Saturday instead of where they used to have nine or ten sides.”

Bishop is clearly perplexed by a situation where, given the dearth of money throughout the game in Wales, much of what there is goes to waste; “In Wales there is still no clear boundary between the professional game and amateur rugby. You get cases of clubs three and four divisions down where players expect to be paid, and often are; in some cases, lots of money. There are clubs in the championship, like Merthyr, who were taken over by Sir Stan Thomas (brother of Cardiff Blues owner, Peter Thomas), where he immediately started treating it like a professional institution. Sure, it might have been nice for the locals to be promoted up a division but, at the end of the day, what does that really achieve? You’re not going to get benefactors for every town or little village in Wales and you’re certainly not going to get the Welsh Rugby Union to support semi-professionalism for clubs at that level. For countries like Wales and Australia, who have limited funds, it surely has to be the aim to clearly separate professionalism and amateurism and not to mix the two.

“The EPL and the rest of football has proven that you can really only have one elite, professional level, which attracts sponsorship, media revenue and wealthy owners, and a base amateur level.”

“The EPL and the rest of football has proven that you can really only have one elite, professional level, which attracts sponsorship, media revenue and wealthy owners, and a base amateur level. Where you try to run a professional model somewhere in between, the result is that clubs go to the wall and communities are devastated as a result; because someone else will always have more money and therefore either better players, or else they will force you to buy better players that you can’t really afford.

“The USA figured this out long ago; almost all of their sports have non-existent, or at least a very thin, professional tier below the top level. But rugby, in Wales, Australia and the lower divisions in France, has yet to figure this out; possibly because professionalism in rugby is still in its infancy.”

Hindsight has shown how, even if the ham-fisted manner in which the WRU forced the regions onto the clubs is set aside, regionalism works best where there is an existing provincial structure that stakeholders are already familiar with, such as in New Zealand and Ireland. This was vividly captured in Ronan Cassidy’s excellent 2011 documentary Munster Rugby; A Limerick Love Affair, a testament to the power of regionalism where it is founded in history and authenticity. But when regionalism is imposed from upon high, with disregard for historic affiliations and traditions, the effect is to disenfranchise the grassroots; the volunteer club workers and small-town club supporters. Mick Dawson, CEO of Leinster concurs.

“The IRFU just polished a provincial system that was already there. The provinces aren’t abstract or constructs, they have hundreds of years of history of being divided along those same lines. What Wales did was create winners and losers, and pitch clubs together who weren’t necessarily a natural fit. Scotland is somewhere in between; not the animosity and despair of Wales, but they were slower to understand and adapt to professionalism than Ireland.”

Welsh rugby fans look dejected

So what of New Zealand, rugby’s undeniable benchmark for elite professional performance? Have they struck the right balance between professional and grassroots rugby?

Certainly it is no wonder that they played a very firm hand in demanding that South Africa and Australia reduce their Super Rugby franchises, in order to shore up the value of broadcast rights heading into the next round of negotiations, which are likely to begin later this year.

With SANZAAR’s ability to fund New Zealand rugby into the future uncertain, NZ Rugby has sensibly sought to cement commercial relationships with global brands such as Adidas, Tudor, Vodaphone, AIG and Amazon, in order to be as self-sufficient as possible. There are dangers, however.


“As much as those factors justify the focus on developing the All Blacks’ brand in overseas markets, Dylan Cleaver queries whether such an approach is sustainable or desirable in the long run. “The sport is almost absurdly top heavy. The All Blacks, some say, essentially pay for the game’s survival, so the paradigm would be more accurately stated as: if the All Blacks crumble, so too will everything below. A catastrophic trickle-down effect, if you like.”

A Weekend Herald editorial, in June 2017, similarly warned “Provincial rugby, meanwhile, depends increasingly on grants that come from the top, earned by the All Blacks. NZ Rugby has become an extremely monolithic enterprise, owning even the regional Super Rugby franchises in this country. The dangers are obvious. The future of the game depends entirely on the wisdom of a few such as (Steve) Tew. There are no competing centres of decision-making as there would be if the Super Rugby franchises were independent companies.”

Vodafone Chief Executive Russell Stanners shakes hands with New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew during a New Zealand All Blacks sponsorship Announcement at Eden Park on May 22, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand Rugby have signed a four-year partnership with Vodafone New Zealand.

All Blacks sponsorship revenue may be more important to New Zealand rugby than we realise.

Rob Nichol has a different slant, seeing the All Blacks’ sponsorships and intellectual property as divorced from the grassroots of rugby. “They say the All Blacks fund it (rugby in New Zealand). They don’t. It’s the people who fund it: it’s the people who choose to buy the sponsors’ products, who choose to buy a broadcast subscription, who choose to go along to the game. The community funds the game, make no bones about that.”

Although approaching things from different perspectives, Cleaver and Nichol are essentially saying the same thing; that the future health of New Zealand rugby depends not on the success of the All Blacks nor their ability of their brand to generate money, but on how well rugby engages and connects people at the community level. Nichol again; “Our commercial future must be tied to a more community-focused pitch, which has to be about ‘what is the opportunity provided to me and my kids to be engaged with a sport that helps my personal development, provides personal growth opportunity, which teaches camaraderie and teamwork and which is good for my health and fitness?’ We need parents to be comfortable that rugby teaches characteristics and values that they want their kids to be involved with. If we can get better at teaching kids at age 14 and 15 that these are the reasons to stay engaged with rugby – not just because you might make the All Blacks and be famous and make lots of money — then their expectations will be set right, and they’ll be far more likely to stay engaged into adulthood. But if we keep sending messages that are dominated by the All Blacks and professional rugby, then we risk teaching kids that it’s only worth engaging with rugby at that level, and that’s where we potentially lose what underpins the game as a whole.

“We need to have a massive rethink about our commercial strategy and ask ourselves ‘what is the real vision about what drives the commercial side of the game’, and it must be the willingness of the community to engage with the game. If we lose that then we’ll be out the back door.”


To ensure the long-term health of rugby in the four SANZAAR nations, it is crucial that a far stronger connection between the professional and amateur games is forged.

But reports a few weeks ago that Beauden Barrett has been offered NZ$3.4m per year to play for a French club demonstrate how the ‘pull forces’ from the north are not going to abate any time soon, and illustrate how difficult it is for senior administrators to get the balance right.

In a global marketplace, any romantic ideal that these external pressures can simply be waved away, and grassroots rugby embraced at all costs, is fanciful.

The truth is, whether a club stalwart, parent, professional player, Rugby Australia executive, broadcaster or casual fan, we are all in this together.

Professional rugby needs grassroots rugby just as the grassroots needs a healthy, financially viable professional game. As much as the chequebooks of English and French clubs, it is parochialism and self-interest (and in Australia, muddying of the waters between national and state responsibilities), that is the enemy; all of which must be overcome if the future health of the game is to be secured.

A young Wallaby fan watches on

Written by Geoff Parkes

Geoff Parkes is a Melbourne-based sports fanatic and writer who started contributing to The Roar in 2012, originally under the pen name Allanthus. His first book, A World in Conflict; the Global Battle For Rugby Supremacy was released in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Meanwhile, his twin goals of achieving a single figure golf handicap and owning a fast racehorse remain tantalisingly out of reach.

Editing, design and layout by Daniel Jeffrey and Stirling Coates

Image credit: All images are copyright Getty Images unless otherwise stated.

Comments (125)

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  • hog said | April 12th 2018 @ 6:11am

    Having read your informative and interesting book over Christmas, it was great to skim over a chapter again this morning before work, one that highlights the many challenges the code faces especially moving on from the amateur era.
    Coming away after reading the book I was left with the distinct impression, not sure entirely justified, but from an Australian viewpoint. “with friends like Steve Tew, who needs enemies”.

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 8:22am

      Cheers hog. Steve Tew is no enemy of Australian rugby, and the NZ union clearly understands that there is strength in the unity of the SH nations.

      It is fair to say however, that their primary interest is the betterment of NZ rugby, in all aspects.

      There’s an interesting parallel in Netball, where Australia decided to go it alone and drop the NZ sides from the elite competition. Without NZ players being exposed to a higher level of competition, the national side has fallen off a cliff (incl a loss this week to Malawi). Australian Netball now has to weigh/consider wider aspects of the game against their purely domestic interests.

      • Mike said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:10am

        Except no one gives a toss about netball.

        • piru said | April 12th 2018 @ 12:08pm

          Netball has more participants by far than rugby does

        • uglykiwi said | April 12th 2018 @ 3:52pm

          Much prefer watching netball than the Aussies in rugby! The girls are tougher and play with respect…

      • Steiner said | April 12th 2018 @ 12:10pm

        Great read Geoff thanks. According to the NZ Herald Izzy is to blame for the Silver Ferns poor form! The whole story will be told in a new kiwi feature film “There’s Something About Maria”. Yep you heard it here first👍

        • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 12:28pm

          🙂

  • Kia Kaha said | April 12th 2018 @ 6:25am

    Great stuff, Geoff. An enthralling read!

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:02am

      Cheers KK.

  • sheek said | April 12th 2018 @ 6:54am

    Geoff,

    As I told you, I think your book was brilliant.

    I have been wondering if Australian rugby will develop along a parallel universe, whereby the best players will be signed up by Europeans clubs and make fleeting appearances for the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship and World Cup.

    Meanwhile, another group of players and fans will retreat to their weekend club fixtures, familiar ground and a throwback to another time, whereby people feel comfortable among like-minded folk.

    I certainly don’t speak for everyone, but I read constantly how everyday folk are fed up with not only the overpaid, entitled professional players misbehaving, but also the preening, peacock suits running the game on enormous salaries.

    Perhaps there is a small revolution going on, with fans giving ‘big business’ the finger and quietly but affirmatively telling them where they can go.

    There is a disconnect in sport between the professionals and amateurs and unless common ground is sought, they will go their separate ways.

    Parallel universes.

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 8:36am

      Hi Sheek

      To what extent do we see professional rugby players misbehaving these days? Particularly in Australia?

      Do you think that today’s professional players (and their Super Rugby organisations) don’t sufficiently engage with rugby communities?

      Do you think anti-big business sentiment is peculiar to rugby in Australia or is common to wider society?

      No question that professional rugby didn’t pay sufficient heed to staying connected to the grass roots of the game. But what’s done is done. I see professional organisations now that have recognised this and are trying to reconnect. Do you think that amateur/club rugby people should continue to extend ‘the finger’ or accept their role in helping bring the game back together?

      • Carlos The Argie said | April 12th 2018 @ 8:47am

        Geoff,

        Most countries now have societies that appear to be anti big business. In most cases it is populism while in others, poor or hubristic decisions by big business make the people rightfully mad.

        • Fionn said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:04am

          I’ve never liked this word ‘populism’, I’ve studied a bit, and it is very nebulous and undefined. Too often it is used to refer simply to politicians that are popular, or are from outside the establishment.

          I think anti-big business sentiment in Australia is still fairly limited in Australia.

          • Carlos The Argie said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:22am

            Populism: Trump, Kirchner in Argentina, Poland, Hungary, Pope Francis…..

            • Fionn said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:37am

              I know who is broadly labelled populists (interestingly, it is also applied to left wing anti-establishment people such as Sanders and Corbyn).

              But that’s what I mean, it is an undefined word without a broadly accepted meaning, and can be applied to any politician from outside the establishment or with popular policies (Orbán in Hungary is establishment also—was President way back in 1998 and was one of the anti-Communist movement leaders)

            • Carlos The Argie said | April 13th 2018 @ 8:15am

              The issue with populism is that it is Not a right or left wing situation. You have populists of both sides. Peron was a classic example. He started as a Mussolinist and then accepted the left. They mimetic with the “people”. It is not really an establishment situation either. Peron, came from the establishment, the military one. Francis came from the jesuits and he still says things that make you “believe”. Poland is another type of example. The pint is that they mutate and adjust. But they re dangerous.

              Anti-Big business is growing everywhere.

            • Fionn said | April 13th 2018 @ 11:20am

              But what do you consider ‘populist’ to mean then, Carlos? Franklin D. Roosevelt would probably be termed a populist using most of the commonly used criteria, as would many of the architects of the post-war growth in Europe and Australia post the Second World War.

              Perhaps you have a very good definition that would make sense to me, but too often it is used as a catch all term for anyone someone doesn’t like.

              It it is growing everywhere relative to the 80s, 90s and up to 2008. But it is still of relatively low importance in Aus compared to a lot of places.

      • sheek said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:34am

        Geoff,

        Q1: I admit “misbehaving” was a very broadly thought word to use. Whether you talk of the ball tampering saga, or Folau’s poorly thought out public uttering, or Logan’s civil physical assault in the US, professional players are far too cocooned in their own bubble.

        Q2: Answered above, professional players are far too cocooned in their own bubble. There’s very little appealing about today’s professionals. McCaw was an obvious exception, learning to fly both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Pocock is a current exception with his charity work back in Zimbabwe.

        Players of the past fought and died in two world wars, and won bravery awards. Others became leading life-saving surgeons or great enterprise engineers.

        Okay, we don’t expect today’s players to go off and fight in wars although you don’t know when that might occur again. But they can certainly do more to engage with their communities.

        Q3: I can only speak for Australia, where there is widespread dissatisfaction with our politicians and business leaders, especially those in banking and utilities. But I suspect the frustration is growing overseas as well.

        The worry is, if our democratic leaders fail to lead and make tough decisions and take reasonable risks, then a vacuum will be created. The fear is that whatever might eventually occupy that vacuum will be worse than anything we know now.

        It just amazes me that when rugby became professional, It had so many examples form other sports, especially football/soccer, on what to do right or not to do.

        But rugby not only made the same mistakes as other sports, but created a few new ones of their own.

        A majority of human nature really is dumb when you think about it. Especially the people who themselves think they are smart (think our pollies, bankers & CEOs). If you’re in fact game to think about it!

        As Mark Twain opined: “Sometimes I wonder if the world is run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it”.

        • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 12:02pm

          Understand your general gripe with the way modern society has developed Sheek, but…

          1. the only rugby player you mention with respect to poor behaviour is Israel Folau. Regardless of where people sit on the issue I’d say it’s a stretch to use this is an example of ‘poor behaviour’. Rather it is a far more complex issue around a shift to a more progressive society clashing with traditional religious views, and freedom of expression versus obligation to an employer and their commercial/sponsor objectives.

          Instead of wallowing in the notion that Australian rugby players behave poorly, using other sports to illustrate the point, why not acknowledge that today’s reality is far different?

          2. Feel free to contact the Waratahs – or any of the SR franchises – to find out exactly what they and their players are doing in the community. It is true that none are likely to be learning to fly a fighter plane in case there’s another war, but you might be surprised

          3. Big mistakes were made in Australia after the success of the 1999 RWC, 2001 Lions tour and successful hosting of the 2003 RWC. A lot of money was wasted and a disconnect was established between professional and amateur rugby that is still a major problem today.

          But that happened 15 plus years ago. I’m not an apologist for deficient administration but do you agree that it is also incumbent on rugby fans at all levels of the game to try to move past old grievances and be part of the solution?

          • Silver Ghost said | April 12th 2018 @ 1:07pm

            Geoff
            You were probably at the footy the other week, when the Rebels did a Tongan Relief drive.
            We brought some rice and other food stuff to give and were greeted and thanked by Rebels players, staffing the truck. It was a a great connection to the community and supporters.
            Inside there were kids in club rugby gear rattling the cans, it was very touching – we donated again.

            That night I wore my Rebels jumper and a Force cap. As we dropped off our donation, big Timani noticed and made comment about how unified the playing group had become in such a short time.

            There is no-doubt there we can all sit and ponder the where’s and why fors of past decisions, but nights like that remind me of why I follow rugby in a mad AFL town like Melbourne.

            Love you stuff BTW

            • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 3:19pm

              Thanks SG, I got to the stadium early just as they were setting the truck up outside and saw Lopeti already chatting to a couple of supporters.

              When I visited clubs in England there was some concern that the academy system was potentially producing young players with an entitlement mentality and less respect for the traditions of the game and their place in it, than previous generations.

              Whether this is true or not, it’s very easy to single out players when they mess up on or off the field, but at the end of the day it’s my observation that the vast majority of them are decent, grounded guys who genuinely appreciate the support of fans.

        • Ozinsa said | April 13th 2018 @ 3:31am

          Sheek, I have met only two CEOs of big listed companies and both were brilliant guys who drove outstanding performance in their businesses.

          It’s a soft option to say pollies, CEOs and bankers aren’t smart. The reality is different.

          • Malo said | April 14th 2018 @ 11:45am

            Yeah James Packers a flipping genius

  • Nick Turnbull said | April 12th 2018 @ 7:15am

    Morning Geoff,

    Tribalism is the bridge that is the missing disconnect between the community and the professional rugby game in Australia in my opinion. It’s not that folk from Queensland are not passionate about the Reds, or New South Wales the Waratahs, it is the fact they play against sides such as the Lions and Bulls that I submit lacks an element of tribalism. It’s almost a ‘who really cares’ fixture.

    With the current SANZAAR tv deal the Australian rugby consumer is too often subjected to such affairs played at the least optimal viewing time. Meanwhile with the simple click of a button, the consumer can watch St George v Cronulla or Penrith v Parramatta, both games oozing in tribalism, games that actually ‘mean something’.

    I congratulate Nick Fordham and his business partners for getting behind the broadcasting of The Shute Shield, it brings the grassroots to the screen. I’m unsure if it’s long term financial viability but I suggest there is a product there if it can be supported by RA in its infancy. That may require of review of the NRC into the future.

    I fear that unless tribalism is evident in the professional game in this country, and can be expressed on a weekly basis the game will languish in the hearts and minds of the Australian sports consumer.

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 8:55am

      Hi Nick

      No question that professional rugby in the SH has managed to disconnect itself from tribal elements and has suffered for it. There’s no better example than the Jaguares in Argentina, NZ also took conscious steps to shift away from the Waikato, Otago etc identities so as to try to embrace neighbouring unions like Bay of Plenty, Southland etc into their catchment. But what was gained on one hand was lost on the other.

      Examples from the NH, like Leinster, Munster, Leicester, Clermont and many others demonstrate how rugby can have the best of both worlds – professional operation in concert with strong local identity.

      • Nick Turnbull said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:13am

        Hi Geoff,

        Excellent point. I understand the MLR in the USA in focusing on including juniors and local feeder clubs as part of the growth into the MLR clubs. Essentially not pay mega bucks for stars, but investing in a mix of home grown and imported talent that I suggest in the long term will be fruitful.

      • sheek said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:43am

        Geoff,

        You can’t be all things to all people. The NZRU should have stuck with its major provinces for super rugby.

        If a player from a small, weaker union wanted to aspire to the ABs, he then moves to a bigger, stronger province.

        That’s how it should work. In another time and place, Waitara-Bush and King Country would have got credit for developing Brian Lochore and Colin Meads respectively.

        But Lochore might have moved to Wellington and Meads to Waikato to further their career.

        That’s how it should work. Not everyone can be in the penthouse.

        Back in 1995 during the super (rugby) league war, the Sydney clubs failed to appreciate this fact, and the game suffered for it.

        That’s also why you won’t ever be able to develop a national rugby comp from Shute Shield, Hospitals Cup and Dent Cup, etc.

        Who plays God in telling which six Sydney clubs are in, and which six clubs are out? Or which four Brisbane Hospitals Cup clubs are in, and which five clubs are out?

        Or which two Canberra Dent Clubs are in, and which five clubs are out? Of course, unless you’re Tuggeranong and you own the entire rugby city.

    • Fionn said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:18am

      If they’re paying the broadcasters to show Shute Shield it indicates that it isn’t sustainable and there isn’t a market for it.

      It’s sad for the Shute Shield, but it doesn’t seem like the most efficient way of spending limited funds, especially if they got the ARU to pay for it.

      • concerned supporter said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:27am

        Fionn,
        Doubt that they are currently paying Ch 7 for the Shute Shield telecast.You sound like TWAS.
        Noticed this week that Foxtel was showing replays of the Norths v Warringah game.
        Bet Foxtel paid, probably not a lot.
        Remember? Warringah’s Shute Shield grand final win out-rated Sydney Swans on free-to-air TV
        Iain Payten, The Daily Telegraph

        August 30, 2017 8:31pm

        • Fionn said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:35am

          Well, concerned supporter, I was basing that on Geoff’s article. If you have information that they’re no longer paying Channel 7 to show the matches on free to air I would love to see it?

          • concerned supporter said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:43am

            “Fionn,
            I don’t have information, evidence, you would have to contact Club Rugby Proprietors, Nick Fordham & John Murray.It’s their business.
            “The decision by Channel Seven to move the Grand Final from 7TWO to their main channel also paid dividends, with 69,000 people tuning into the 3pm broadcast.

            That’s a decent result on a Saturday afternoon but what proved surprising was Warringah playing Norths drew a bigger free-to-air audience than the Swans, who thumped Carlton across town at the SCG in a 4pm clash.
            The Swans only had 61,000 people watching on 7Mate — 8000 fewer than the club footy.
            It must be said the AFL game was also shown on FoxFooty, but Sydney’s share of a national pay-TV audience of 259,000 was only 26,000.
            “We are absolutely thrilled with how everything went,” Sydney Rugby Union president Dave Begg said.
            “It was the culmination of a fantastic year. Obviously it has been tinged with tragedy but you can only be proud about the way the rugby has come together.
            “Saturday was a great day but it’s not even just about the Grand Final. It’s about the energy throughout the whole Shute Shield and the community coming together and saying “this is a great product”.
            “If Seven have the capacity to put us on the main channel next year, those ratings figures go to prove that Shute Shield can be a ratings winner.”

          • concerned supporter said | April 12th 2018 @ 10:14am

            Fionn,
            I don’t have any information, suggest you contact Nick Fordham or John Murray.
            But Ch 7 receive advertising income, I think that they would be currently happy with that.
            The decision by Channel Seven to move the Grand Final from 7TWO to their main channel also paid dividends, with 69,000 people tuning into the 3pm broadcast.
            That’s a decent result on a Saturday afternoon but what proved surprising was Warringah playing Norths drew a bigger free-to-air audience than the Swans, who thumped Carlton across town at the SCG in a 4pm clash.

            The Swans only had 61,000 people watching on 7Mate — 8000 fewer than the club footy.
            It must be said the AFL game was also shown on FoxFooty, but Sydney’s share of a national pay-TV audience of 259,000 was only 26,000.

            “We are absolutely thrilled with how everything went,” Sydney Rugby Union president Dave Begg said.
            “It was the culmination of a fantastic year. Obviously it has been tinged with tragedy but you can only be proud about the way the rugby has come together.
            “Saturday was a great day but it’s not even just about the Grand Final. It’s about the energy throughout the whole Shute Shield and the community coming together and saying “this is a great product”.
            “If Seven have the capacity to put us on the main channel next year, those ratings figures go to prove that Shute Shield can be a ratings winner.”

        • Ed said | April 12th 2018 @ 10:07am

          CS,
          That would have to have been in Sydney as nationally the Swans-Carlton match had more viewers on both free-to-air and pay tvs than the Bledisloe Cup match from Dunedin.

          The Swans match had the most viewers of any program on pay-tv for that Saturday, 26 Aug 2017.

          https://tvtonight.com.au/2017/08/saturday-26-august-2017.html

          • concerned supporter said | April 12th 2018 @ 10:19am

            Ed,
            The Shute Shield was not on pay tv.
            The viewers compared were from NSW> Doubt that many people in WA or the other states would have any interest in Warringah v Norths, Do you?

            • Ed said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:20am

              No it was not.
              And yes, it would be of little interest in the other states.

              Those who watched the final would be die-hard fans of the sport, like those who attended the game.

              Those numbers in Sydney would not be able to sustain a domestic competition to replace the income the governing body receives for Super Rugby.

      • Malo said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:23am

        Professional rugby Fion apart from the RWCUPis almost dead and the grassroots is growing. So the aru should connect with the rugby follower . SR IS A DEAD COMP WALKING. Watch how little people go to the tests now when before you had to get tickets straight away. My rugby mates all watch nrl

        • Melburnian said | April 12th 2018 @ 12:44pm

          If I interpret what you are saying correctly, then what you allude to is an Australian phenomenon. In the NH, the 6N and Autumn Internationals are sell out. When top Aviva Premiership clubs play at Wembley or Twickenham, they attract crowds of 80,000. Eden Park is usually a 55,000+ crowd from the AB’s.

          You mention that your mates all watch NRL. Again this is pretty much an Aussie thing. We had the League RWC here recently and I saw next to no coverage in the media or on TV, and that’s a trend over the last 25 years.

          That said, I agree with you the SR needs an overhaul but the decline in Australian Union support is in part down to fair weather supporters.

        • Ed said | April 12th 2018 @ 4:22pm

          Is that also related to the success of the Wallabies since 2004?
          I remember having to queue at a Ticketek outlet for the Lions and NZ tests in Sydney in 2001. But we were holders of the Webb Ellis, Bledisloe and Tri-Nations trophies then.
          Our success brought the spectators.

  • Carlos The Argie said | April 12th 2018 @ 7:33am

    Dear Geoff,

    I finally finished your book. I cannot decide if it is optimistic, pessimistic or what, but it seems realistic. During my bike ride today I was thinking of “my” rugby when I was growing up. Tries were 3 points, no lifting in line-outs. The kick-off was from the ground (not a drop kick). The jerseys were cotton…

    Coincidentally, this week I was putting away some of my rugby memorabilia: the last club jersey I had to buy (cotton), the Adidas Flanker cleats I wore the last time I played in Argentina, with yellow stripes. An old Adidas ball…

    Rugby has changed. Though now due to my size/shape I would have never been able to reach pro level, I would still make it to a second or third team. There is room for both amateur rugby and pro. It is in the minds of the people the ability to have both. Jealousy and tribalism will hurt both sides of the code. We have to learn to live together and develop the “social skills” so that the sport we all love continues and thrives.

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:01am

      Hi Carlos

      I like the word the NZ Herald’s Dylan Cleaver used to describe the book – not pessimistic or optimistic, but “sobering”.

      It’s interesting how we look back at our days in amateur rugby with rose tinted glasses. There are so many things that are better in the game now – not the least being the skill and fitness of players, the amount of time the ball is in play – but it is also sad to think about what has been lost from the game with its increasing commercialisation.

      • Fionn said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:10am

        I bet Jock C won’t comment on your article, Geoff, or read your book.

        You’ve too many facts that interfere with his narrative.

        For what it’s worth, I really liked this article, and fully intend on reading your book in the semester break. I just finished a 700 page book on Australian trade policy, and now need to digest some fiction..

        • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:20am

          Cheers Fionn.
          After that warm-up you’ll find my book a breeze!

        • Malo said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:27am

          The book just portrays the obvious, no solutions, just bags the grassroots. It is an arrogant ARU pleasing book, that does not relate to the Sydney clubs. Geoff has never met Papeorth or been to a Sydney club. It just proclaims that the public should get behind SR. Meet the plebes

          • Celtic334 said | April 12th 2018 @ 2:25pm

            Re; Malo

            Sydney, Sydney, Sydney, Sydney, Sydney.

            And this is part of the issue with Australian rugby.

            The SS is a great competition but it does not speak for the rest of the country (btw i am a QLD who lives in Melb). I want it to be strong and yes more should/could be done to achieve this but when i hear SS clubs latch onto the word ‘grassroots’ it just irks me. The are essentially clubs that have great infrastructure, with a supporter base big enough to make themselves financially sustainable, but they all want to be something than they are capable of but attempting to be more on the professional side of semi professional. The real grassroots are clubs that are working out of a ute, or a run down shed, with not enough tackling pads to supply all grades, clubs where 50 players are used across 3 grades (the 3rds play, the better players of the 3rds play 2nds and the better players of the second warm the bench of the 1st)

            • Fionn said | April 12th 2018 @ 3:25pm

              Yeah, the Shute Shield isn’t grassroots – it’s an elite amateur competition that wishes it was professional. Not grassroots by any stretch.

              Grassroots are junior clubs, entry level programs and the community guys that teach rugby to total newbies.

            • John R said | April 12th 2018 @ 3:32pm

              To be fair Fionn, the Shute Shield clubs also administer their own junior comps.

              I myself am a proud former Coogee Seahorse, which is one of the teams in Randwick’s junior comp.

              Although I only ever got to play for Coogee White’s cause it turns out I am quite s–t at Rugby.

            • jeznez said | April 12th 2018 @ 3:57pm

              The local junior comp will be part of the Sydney Rugby Union – not Randwick themselves.

              I’m not across the relationship of Randwick to the Seahorses but can certainly talk to the junior teams in the Southern Districts catchement area.

              Sylvania Bulldogs for instance have colours stemming from the involvement of former Easts players in revitalising the club in it’s current form.

              Oatley Rugby Juniors are juniors of the Oatley Rugby club

              Burraneer also have a seniors in the subbies.

              The best kids come through to Southern Districts and Southo’s get involved and support the juniors but they certainly don’t administer them.

            • jeznez said | April 12th 2018 @ 3:58pm

              It is the SRU that administers the local junior comps.

            • John R said | April 12th 2018 @ 4:08pm

              Ah copy that Jez. I stand corrected.

              At my time there, they mentioned the pathway up to Randwickm, but it sounds like it’s more just a beneficial association?

            • jeznez said | April 12th 2018 @ 4:24pm

              I would be surprised if there wasn’t similar support from Randwick to their local juniors as I have seen from Southo’s to their local kids.

              Is just that the relationship isn’t formal, the engagement is great for the kids and the senior club gets the benefit of the best juniors coming through.

              The kids that aren’t strong enough still have the opportunity to head on to subbies.

              There used to be more teams at each Shute Shield club but those have been whittled down as they have tried to trim costs and focus on elite rugby.

              The overflow of players has revitalised the subbies comps that used to be pretty grim battlegrounds but are now in my mind the true grassroots of Sydney senior rugby.

              I’ve seen both sides at Souther Districts and at Colleagues – love both clubs but one of them has a spot for everyone and one only has spots for those that are good enough.

          • Brett McKay said | April 13th 2018 @ 12:01pm

            There’s ignorant, and there’s self absorbed, and then there’s the astonishing stupidity that a book about professional rugby around the world and how every nation within is facing its’ own kind of struggles, “is an arrogant ARU pleasing book, that does not relate to the Sydney clubs.”

            The hide of an author writing about world rugby to not consider the needs of the Sydney clubs!!

            • Geoff Parkes said | April 13th 2018 @ 4:51pm

              Yes, if only I’d known that chapters on The British and Irish Lions, player welfare, the Celtic nations, broadcasting rights, World Rugby, Pacific Islands rugby etc… were going to be irrelevant, I wouldn’t have wasted my time writing them! 🙂

            • Carlos The Argie said | April 14th 2018 @ 1:30am

              There are many Trumpist-type people around the world….

      • Carlos The Argie said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:27am

        This is absolutely correct! Skills have changes so much!

        Ricardo Landajo the father of the current Landajo scrum half, played rugby in my club. He did not know how to do a “zeppelin” pass (as we called it there). Our old coach (Guastella) brought it into the country from a French tour. The scrum half in our team, a few years younger than Landajo, taught him how to do this pass. Think of it, a kid of 17 teaching a starter Pumas scrum half how to have a long pass….

    • sheek said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:45am

      Carlos,

      And I bet your old rugby cotton jersey had a decent collar on it as well!

      • Carlos The Argie said | April 12th 2018 @ 3:36pm

        Of course it did! I wish I could upload some of the pictures of these kits! Maybe the editors should allow one post to let old time Roarers upload such.

  • Sheek said | April 12th 2018 @ 8:08am

    BTW Geoff,

    Your opening sentence makes sense.

    I read it as “I ant…

  • i miss the force said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:13am

    great read
    i wonder how sustainable the french and english big dollars are? they seem to rely on benefactors

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:32am

      That’s partly the case force. Certainly in France there are many individual benefactors, but also, most of the clubs have very strong connections to their local communities.

      Importantly, because of demographics, broadcasting rights revenue is substantially higher than in the SH. And the national unions are relatively wealthy because of strong institutions like the 6 Nations.

      But it’s true that there are clubs that are carrying a lot of debt, that are at risk from the potential loss of a benefactor. When this happens to an EPL club there is a queue of rich Russians, Arabs and US families looking for a vanity project, ready to take over. That’s not the case for rugby.

      But even if we were to see individual rugby clubs run into deeper trouble, I sense that there is enough money in the game there as a whole, to ensure that clubs are supported (as has happened in Ireland and Wales) and that the overall structure of the game isn’t impeded.

      • Poth Ale said | April 12th 2018 @ 10:36am

        I’m not sure that I’d share your optimism about there being enough money in the game, Geoff.

        The English clubs are paying the price of massive salary inflation due to big TV deals. SA Remgro’s recent decision to sell its 50% stake in Saracens with its £40m accumulated debt shows that corporate benefactors will only sustain losses for so long.

        The contrasting fortunes for the two Irish business owners of Wasps and London Irish illustrates the likely paths and outcomes for the current model. Derek Richardson bought Wasps for a pound and promptly moved the club to a new city and acquired a stadium with a soccer tenant, hotel and conference facilities. That’s how they make money now and into the future. The rugby becomes just a line on the revenue sheet. Mick Crossan bought LI in the vain hope of restoring the Irish exiles glory days and his club is now facing permanent relegation with substantial debts as ringfencing the Premiership becomes the inevitable next stage to steady the listing ship. The last BT TV deal had the club owners jumping for joy but I can’t see the next TV deal rising much as viewership numbers have not bloomed and cheap terrestrial TV deals have been brought in to boost numbers.

        So the clubs will have to cut costs. And the biggest cost is player salaries, particular star foreign ones. The PRO14 clubs can’t afford them for the most part and instead have been focusing on domestic pathway development more and more.

        As I’ve said previously, the axis for the future of the game is balanced not on the equator but on the future control and power between unions and the private clubs in France and England.

        • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 10:57am

          Hi PA

          No question that your final pgh identifies the critical point of conflict and accords with the findings in my book. If it ever was, it is no longer ‘north versus south’ but the national unions versus the English and French clubs.

          The fate of London Irish is certainly a good illustration that all is not rosy, even in England. In this respect it will be interesting to see what the effects are of the potential ‘ring-fencing’ of the premiership.

          Re the value of TV rights, don’t forget that BT Sports do not rely on rugby alone, this is only part of their overall business strategy. I guess how much they are prepared to bid for continuation of the rights will reflect how successful (or not) they have been in migrating viewers to other sectors of their business, and vice-versa.

        • Perthstayer said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:45am

          Cost to owners is not always as one way as it seems, especially for individual benefactors.

          Wouldn’t you be attracted to a savings rate of 10-15%? EPL owners often lend money to their own clubs. Lend $20m at 1o% and you get your principle back in 10 years, at 15% it’s a paltry 6.5 years.

          Toulouse average 2015/16 attendance was 16,000 and over 20,000 in 16/17. That’s good cashflow to cover interest repayments.

          Players are also assets of course and are bought/sold.

          • Perthstayer said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:48am

            Statbunker says Toulouse 16/17 attendance was 23,000 but I’ve rounded that down as I gather attendance has fallen this year.

          • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 12:11pm

            Yes, and it’s why a lot of the debt figures are misleading – often a lot of that debt is internal.

            Also, in many cases, the owners are prepared to write that off as a cost of their engagement in the sport/satisfying their ego.

            • Celtic334 said | April 12th 2018 @ 2:33pm

              Don’t forget the business implications running a club has, its a place to win and dine, wheel and deal, it brings recognition and credibility which all helps build revenue for other aspects of their business empires. Losing a few mill is nothing if it helps generate millions elsewhere

          • Poth Ale said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:50pm

            Worcester Warriors have reported to Companies House that their pre-tax loss for last season (year end 30th June 2017) was £8.1m on despite increased revenue of almost £1m.

            The Premiership club had reported a pre-tax profit for WRFC Trading Ltd of £14.3m the previous year due to shareholders writing off more than £20.4m of accumulated debt.

            The club is now up for sale.

  • Highlander said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:20am

    Good to go over this again Geoff

    Interesting that the gap between the two has been allowed to grow as wide as it has in some spheres and this is a serious error by the administrators of the professional game.
    Professional Sport is a business, and by that I mean it needs to be top quality in all aspects of its business dealings, not just being concerned with outcomes on the park season to season.

    And that is where the Business Leaders of NZ and Irish rugby have excelled.

    In no sphere of business would you hang all your hats on the continued success of your end product without controlling your supply chain.

    For Rugby that supply chain is the grass roots, Clubs, Schools and First Stage semi-pros.
    In order to have any say in the quality and type of assets these chains produce you must be close to them, and it order to have any credible say in the outcomes you must, in some way, be paying for it.
    They cannot be apart and only come together at the very top.

    Any strong business controls and manages its supply chain with as much vigour as it manages and promotes its end product.

    Does not need to be total control over vertical integration, but you sure need to know exactly what is going on at the producer level and be able to influence it.

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:59am

      Spot on Highlander, and it is this argument which explains why NZ Rugby will not agree to ‘saving’ Super Rugby, by opening up NZ players to all franchises.

      NZ Rugby’s most important asset is the historic, cultural link to the New Zealand people. It’s most important financial asset is the All Blacks’ brand.

      It makes no sense to them – on both these counts – to have its elite players shipped overseas to bolster competing franchises – losing control of their conditioning and coaching, and disconnecting those players from local fans.

    • Ralph said | April 13th 2018 @ 1:11pm

      The thing I don’t quite get Highlander is why the money can’t be extended down into those clubs and schools.

      Otherwise the people keeping the machine running with raw talent will die.

      Couldn’t we have a system of student loans to account for the huge cost of developing the talent at that grass roots? Then when the money comes calling they have to pay out that loan and the grass roots doesn’t get nothing and the rich professionals don’t harvest everything somebody else planted.

  • Harry Jones said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:26am

    Lanky essay. Not as laconic as the Welsh lock who diagrammes the sport we love. But timely, prescient, coal-mine-canary-like, and dare I say, important to read. We need an epicentre, a hotbed, a patronage, rugby Medicis, but tethered to the local potbellied club captain, the quicksilver aging wing, the young loose forward dreamer, the new Scott Fardy or Warren Whiteley, who did some other job before they earned a rugby cheque.

    Thank you for your spirited love of this most beautiful sphere of our noble sport.

    • Carlos The Argie said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:30am

      You are the Leonard Cohen of this site.

      • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:38am

        Yes. I believe Harry likes to lurk about in a famous blue raincoat as well.

        At the cost of having to explain his behaviour to the local constabulary…

        • Harry Jones said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:44am

          I will take all of that as a compliment.

          Really enjoyed this, Dr P.

    • Nobrain said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:57am

      Every time I read something you write I have the feeling that english is my third language now and if this keeps going, it will be my fourth.

      • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 3:23pm

        Nobes, my Spanish is limited to ‘hola’, ‘Pajero’ and ‘Sergio Garcia’. You are so far ahead it isn’t even funny.

        • Carlos The Argie said | April 12th 2018 @ 3:37pm

          Don’t say “pajero”! Not a nice term.

          • jeznez said | April 12th 2018 @ 3:45pm

            I thought that was a Mitsubishi

          • cuw said | April 12th 2018 @ 3:46pm

            @ Carlos The Argie

            why? i am curios.

            i used to own a Mitsubishi Pajero 4wd SUV a while back 🙂

            • OJP said | April 12th 2018 @ 7:16pm

              if I understand correctly, it relates to self gratification.

              Hows that Mods ? Acceptable I hope !

              Very interesting read Geoff and I also enjoyed the photographic essay you linked to. cheers!

          • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 4:46pm

            I’d only ever use it sparingly Carlos. And definitely not to you!

            • Harry Jones said | April 12th 2018 @ 6:04pm

              You’ve tackled weighty issues, GP.

              ~ Harry, in Raymond Rhule’s hometown

            • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 7:03pm

              If you’re not the first person ever to post on The Roar from Accra Harry, you’re surely the first to post on this article!

            • Carlos The Argie said | April 13th 2018 @ 8:18am

              SO, now I ak confused. What do you do/use sparingly?
              And is it a weighty issue?
              DO we go to hell if we play, like Chuck Berry sang?

              Should we ask Izzy?

  • Onside said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:26am

    Amateur and professional rugby is a contradiction of terms, not only by definition, but also style.

    An amateur rugby immutable is it is game for the players ; they do not need to entertain.

    Professional rugby though, is compelled to entertain ,striving to make the game , not for the players, but instead , one for both spectators and sponsorship paymasters.

    How a professional team wins, is now more important and heavily discussed , than wether they won.

    At Test level, nation v nation, the pinnacle of professionalism, such definitions are irrelevant .

    However the high level of support for Test rugby is more a reflection on it is seen as an event, (like The Melbourne Cup) and the numbers, both financial and physical, barely trickle down to grass roots support for the amateur game.

    Never have, never will. …….and so it goes.

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:50am

      Nowhere is this discordance better illustrated than in British football Onside. The amount of money in the EPL is mind boggling. Yet at the lower levels, the game is despairing. Certainly no ‘trickle down’ effect there.

      I heartily recommend David Goldblatt’s book, ‘The Game of our Lives’ as a stark but brilliant account of this and other societal factors at play.

      The reality is (backed up by the US experience) is that money in sport ends up with elite players (and their managers). The scale is far lower than in football, but the increasing amounts being offered to players like Beauden Barrett support this.

      • Onside said | April 12th 2018 @ 10:58am

        Thanks Geoff, I will buy both your book and the one you recommend

        In any event , I reckon we are lucky to be able to read articles like yours on this site.

  • Ralph said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:38am

    Really great article Geoff.

    I have thought for some time now that the biggest disconnect in NZ rugby is the schools and clubs that train the kids up.

    The only solution I have come up with is an idea of transfer payments, where those who are training up get a stake over future potential earnings of a player *if* they ever get a professional contract. Sort of like a student loan system.

    This way rich clubs can still “buy” up young talent they didn’t train up but only by buying out that student loan to the schools or clubs hold. This way it is possible for smaller places that create rugby players to join to the commercial side of sport. It might even work in the pacific islands I think.

    It is a half idea but if we don’t connect what you have called the amateur to the commercial then the end game must be the death of the commercially smaller to the commercially large.

  • Stu B said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:47am

    Just bloody fantastic article Geoff, and that is where world rugby is at. If NZ. rugby is fragile we are certainly well out of balance and until we collect some real intelligence in leadership it is difficult to see a gleaming future for Australian rugby.
    Is it true the board has appointed another stooge from the elite uni club too replace Eales?

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 4:47pm

      Thanks for reading Stu.

  • Frank O'Keeffe said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:50am

    This is a brilliant article. And well done to the Roar editors – I think I can see Daniel Jeffrey’s influence here – in creating a beautiful layout. This reads so well.

    I’ll give more thoughts on this later. But for now, well done Geoff Parkes!

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 10:25am

      Cheers Frank.

      And yes, congratulations and thanks to Dan and Stirling for doing such a great job pulling this together in such a professional and attractive way. Outstanding.

      • Daniel Jeffrey said | April 18th 2018 @ 4:35pm

        Cheers to you both. Putting these pieces together is always a pleasure.

  • Chris D said | April 12th 2018 @ 10:23am

    Great read Geoff and a great insight into how differing unions are travelling in the 23 years since professionalism. In the Australian context I think there are a few things worth noting:

    – The ARU (and NSWRU) were never hands-on in the running, support or non-representative player development of grassroots rugby at clubs and schools in the amateur era. Rightly or wrongly, neither were the AFL or NRL 25 years ago but they have really invested heavily in the past 15 years.

    – GPS/CAS schools and the Shute Shield always was, and still remains, the main pathway to higher (or now professional) honours for players in NSW. Ironically, neither are connected directly to Rugby Australia or the Waratahs.

    – Contact sport participation levels for high school age players is in decline across Australia. As clubs start losing their third-grade players and teams, they lose their best raffle ticket sellers, the bbq cooks (and generally the best canteen and beer purchasers!). We already have a massive over-reliance on the over 60’s to support volunteering in Australia. Rugby is no exception.

    Parents of our juniors often comment how much they love the culture and environment created at their kids matches, however, as a family they have no other emotional connection to the game. I would argue that in 1992 more Australians could name the Wallaby players who were amateurs (despite ABC-only coverage) compared to the recent Wallaby sides almost exclusively on pay-tv.

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:07am

      Some thoughtful and interesting points there thanks Chris.

      Does that breakdown in the fabric of clubs (losing the 3rd graders etc… and what flows from that) signal a gradual shift to a US Football situation where there is an elite professional tier, schools/college tier, but very little in between?

      And the pay TV conundrum, or ‘golden handcuffs’ situation is a fascinating topic. My feeling is that FTA has fractured so much, and has so many problems of its own in dealing with a rapidly changing media landscape, that it is no longer a viable solution for rugby in Australia – even if the revenue obtained via pay TV wasn’t an issue.

      • Ed said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:28am

        The Wallabies/rugby brand in Australia has dropped to where our European tours for the past two years have been on that noted broadcaster of the sport – SBS.

        Great for those like me who don’t have pay-TV, but would the sponsors of the Wallabies be thrilled with that situation?

        • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 12:13pm

          Sshh Ed, let’s not rock the boat with Qantas any more than it’s being rocked already….

  • Gav said | April 12th 2018 @ 10:29am

    No, it won’t in Australia. Professional rugby doesn’t have a future in Australia and I’m content with that. I can still support my local club and the Wallabies as well as watching rugby from Europe. I do this with Basketball, watch a bit of the Kings but also tune into the NBA.

  • Iain Barclay said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:24am

    Interesting and thought provoking article most of which makes a lot of sense. One thing I do want to focus on and that is the ARU’s financial support of the Shute Shield TV broadcasting. Who outside that geographical localized area would be interested? And this at the same time as WA’s burgeoning support for union is given a slap in the face. [Not personal bias by the way as I’m a Rebel’s supporter who has benefited from the demise of the Force.] It seems obvious to me that when the roots are neglected the entire edifice will eventually die!

    • Perthstayer said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:59am

      Iain,

      I had no idea they funded Shute TV coverage. Can they sink any lower.

      • John R said | April 12th 2018 @ 12:05pm

        Some background here.

        the Sydney Rugby Union made a deal with 7, to get their comp on FTA in the Sydney region, they would pay for the access, and for the cost of production.

        They they then realised they didn’t have enough money to fund it, and needed to go to RA hat in hand.

        If RA hadn’t stepped in, the SRU would be bankrupt, and Shute Shield would go under.

        If you were running rugby in the country, would you want your largest club comp to go under?

        From what I can gather now, it is all self funded. They have a good naming rights partner in Intrust Super. So I’m sure they have enough money coming in to cover their costs. And good on them. They’ve got their comp up on Sky in NZ now as well I’m pretty sure.

        • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 12:17pm

          Thanks John. Yes the situation seems far improved and to Iain and Perthstayer, this was a one-off (two-off?) situation that was not of the ARU’s making.

          • Perthstayer said | April 12th 2018 @ 1:33pm

            OK. That makes the pill a bit smaller to swallow.

            “Didn’t realise they didn’t have enough money” – I wish I had an RA equivalent to call on at the end of every month!

            I wonder if RA were canny enough, legitimately, to provide it as a loan or just simply wrote it off.

  • John R said | April 12th 2018 @ 11:58am

    Hey Geoff, do you know why SANZAAR doesn’t do a league pass?

    I assume it’s something to do with the broadcast deals prohibiting such an arrangement?

    how does RugbyPass get around it? (I note they only officially operate in countries outside of the broadcast partners domestic markets. But for anyone interest, a little bit of VPN’ing will get you access, and for a lot cheaper than Foxtel Go)

    What if they did a revenue share option? Like I pay SANZAAR $50 to get access for a calendar year, SANZAAR gives 50% of that to say Foxtel, which covers them to produce the content etc?

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 12:26pm

      Hi John

      I expect all options will be under consideration as discussions and negotiations start for the next round of broadcasting rights.

      It’s a complex situation because there are 4 countries in SANZAAR, plus a SR side in Japan, plus there are strong markets in the NH, and new media players to consider. A lot of conflicting objectives to try to satisfy.

      Whatever washes up there will be winners and losers and compromise solutions (including the matter of access via a ‘league pass’ or similar). That’s just the nature of the beast.

      What we do know is that this is a critical juncture for all of the SANZAAR unions, and the outcome will be crucial in determining the future of the game.

      • John R said | April 12th 2018 @ 12:29pm

        I wouldn’t mind if Amazon or facebook came in and got the rights tbh.

        They’d be able to offer a more concise product at a much lower price than Pay TV can (I don’t need the E! Channel m8, I just want the rugby).

        Glass half full thinking, but seems like a good fit to lower that barrier of entry to the product.

  • Nobrain said | April 12th 2018 @ 12:05pm

    Geoff, this is an amazing read. My impresion is that it is not optimistic or pesimistic. It is the description of what it is, and the expectations of each individual reader is the main decider on the perception each individual has on the current situation. Rugby is a unique sport in so many ways that is not easy to feed us all. The ones that play or have played the game at any level are the ones that understand the most, and the ones that never played seem clueless on the current affairs.

  • Oldloosey said | April 12th 2018 @ 3:49pm

    Nice read Geoff. The amateur to semi pro with no clue transition you described is as I lived it at Randwick.
    I am of the opinion that getting competitions such as Shute, Hospital, even GPS/CAS on either FTA or on some sort of non pay for view format is essential to keep / develop grass roots interest.

    My partner is an avid athletics fan.
    Athletics AU has taken to streaming a lot of meets on various technologies (FB video is one). The quality is OK, the production costs are low. 7 is streaming a great deal of Comm Games, and passing video thru to international partners via online services.

    Is this part of the answer for the sub professional tiers? Low cost streaming thru a rugby portal, subsidised by RA? Tech advice / assistance provided by RA to clubs to setup?

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 12th 2018 @ 9:06pm

      Hi Oldloosey

      The focus is understandably on the elite end but I agree that the scenario you paint is likely to become increasingly important.

      Audiences will continue to fragment in terms of the technology they use to access sport, in the process aligning them to certain sports over others, and different segments of the same sport. This website is a good example, the audiences for written articles and video are to a high degree, separate.

      Administrations that understand this and find ways to harness it will reap benefits. They don’t need to do it all themselves, just help facilitate it as part of an overall strategy to connect better to fans and potential fans.

      The trick is to manage things in a way that doesn’t infringe upon or diminish broadcast rights revenue, but maximises potential reach.

  • sheek said | April 12th 2018 @ 7:42pm

    You don’t need to be an Einstein to figure out that rugby, even in the established nations, has a finite player base.

    Potential for growth appears to be awfully slow. Therefore, there can only be a finite professional base also.

    I’ve read articles, I’m sure many have, where those clubs that oscillate between first and second division in the English Rugby Premiership and French Top 14 are dying a slow death.

    The constant yo-yo up and down of these clubs makes it difficult to project long-term revenue streams, let alone recruit and retain key players.

    The English and French unions might say, “okay, we’ll have 16 professional clubs in tier 1 spread around the country and that’s it. Everyone else is amateur or, if they can afford it, win/loss match payments only.

    Then it will be like the major leagues in the US. If a club is struggling in its original region, it might be relocated elsewhere, but neither comp would look to expand for a long time.

    Wales, Ireland and Scotland have all been around since the dawn of rugby. Yet Wales and Ireland can only provide
    four professional clubs while Scotland would be stretched to provide a third.

    Italy, a fully paid up member of the 6 Nations European Championship, would also struggle to field three clubs.

    Quite extraordinary, isn’t it? Over 120 years existence for so many traditional rugby nations and clubs yet such a small pool of high quality resources.

    New Zealand might be the best rugby nation on earth historically, but six professional clubs is probably their financial limit, while both Australia and South Africa would struggle to field five professional clubs with so many players heading offshore.

    It explains to a large extent also why English and French clubs are raiding southern hemisphere talent. There simply isn’t enough quality to go around.

    Quite amazing (not) for a code that boasts to be the second most popular football code in the world.

    • NaBUru38 said | April 14th 2018 @ 6:14am

      “Yet Wales and Ireland can only provide
      four professional clubs while Scotland would be stretched to provide a third.”

      The problem isn’t lack of talent, but budget. Economic inequality in rugby is much bigger than in football.

  • HighTemplar said | April 13th 2018 @ 12:41am

    The thing about rugby in NZ is that we have a clear hierarchy before professionalism, that was All Blacks > NPC > club rugby, and when the super 12 came along it simply slotted in between the All Blacks and the NPC. The problem for Australia (in my opinion) is that (correct me if I am wrong) your NRC is a very recent construct (whereas the NPC has been going since before we were independent) therefore you simply don’t have the rivalries or the traditions that the NPC has (can you imagine RA trying to do something like the ranfurly shield, it wouldn’t work because you don’t have the history). The Super franchises were also created by merging several provinces together allowing them to be feeders for the super franchises continuing the clear separation and direction of player development. It also helps that the NZRU wields enormous power and our local unions are very weak in comparison allowing tough decisions to be make without having to worry about catering to the local unions

    • Geoff Parkes said | April 13th 2018 @ 6:53am

      Hi HT

      There’s a contradiction in there which makes your final point. Australian rugby does in fact have tradition – Queensland and NSW have been going at it for far longer than NZ provinces have, although of course there has been an imbalance with development in other states.

      You’re correct about where the power lies in NZ rugby, and it’s that tradition and strength in NSW and Qld that is part of the problem for Australian rugby, where the national union, states and clubs haven’t figured out how to operate smoothly.

      Imagine the Auckland and Canterbury unions dominating all of the other NZ provinces, the Auckland club competition doing their own thing and NZ Rugby having little influence over it all.

      • HighTemplar said | April 13th 2018 @ 1:39pm

        I have no idea about the Auckland club comp (being a cantab) but I think you hit the nail on the head, in Australia you have two unions that are by far dominant with the rest sort of subservient, in NZ yes there’s Canterbury and Auckland but there is also Wellington Otago etc. one big difference between say the Sydney union and the Auckland Union is Auckland is split into three different Unions (north harbour, Auckland and counties manacu (spelt incorrectly), four if you count northland) this prevents Auckland dominating like Sydney does, both politically and on the field. Another big difference is the culture, over here every 10 year old’s dream is to play for the All Blacks, could you say the same about the Wallabies? This means that the NZRU gets the best of both up and coming tallent (for which it doesn’t have to compete with the NRL and AFL for) and gets people much more interested in the game as it is basically part of our culture now (allowing us to punch above our weight support wise). To be sure this is a double edged sword, for example if the wallabies put 60 points on the ABs in 50 minutes (as we did to you last year) the coach would be sacked and probably find it difficult to get a job coaching under 13s. But yes the main secret to NZ rugby’s success (that you guys can implement) is a strict top down chain of command where ARU > state (super rugby) > cities/regions (NRC) > clubs. Hence your aforementioned Sydney club playoff (Shute shield?) should be rather low down on the pecking order (put it this way, here the local Christchurch Div 1 championship is of far less importance than Canterbury in the NPC let alone super rugby).

        Hopefully you guys come right as much as I am enjoying this trans-Tasman drought I know it is ultimately bad for the game (and NZ rugby as well)

        • Geoff Parkes said | April 13th 2018 @ 4:57pm

          Yes HT, all NZ’ers still want to beat Australia, but I’m sure everyone understand that there’s no point in being the kings of nothing.

          Things will turn, it will start with the odd Super Rugby game and at some point the Wallabies will put together two winning games in a row against the AB’s. But it’s been far too long and needs to change soon, in order to get fans back to following the game.

  • Rob said | April 13th 2018 @ 8:50am

    I’ll have to grab the book now as the topic of professionalism vs amateur is heavily on my mind at the moment with Rugby Canada deciding to tax teens / adults $20 and children $10 extra this season to ensure they have the funds to go to the Repechage and (they hope… me, not bothered any more) the World Cup.

  • ForceFan said | April 13th 2018 @ 12:12pm

    Looks like it’s happening in Western Australia.

    Perhaps it just needs a professional outfit having input…..

    https://www.rugbywa.asn.au/news/fortescue-rugbywa-partnership-forged-in-loyalty/

    https://youtu.be/P8ZPVahtvR0

  • Ralph said | April 13th 2018 @ 12:47pm

    Really great article Geoff.

  • Ralph said | April 13th 2018 @ 12:56pm

    Great article Geoff.

  • NaBUru38 said | April 14th 2018 @ 5:41am

    Absolutely brilliant article, thanks!

  • concerned supporter said | April 14th 2018 @ 8:38am

    Hi Geoff,
    Attached are links to an article which should answer a few Shute Shield sceptics in relation to FTA.
    “Sponsors and fans flock to club rugby following miracle turnaround
    Read more at http://www.adnews.com.au/news/sponsors-and-fans-flock-to-club-rugby-following-miracle-turnaround#jTRQoVpPZqiHCs44.99

    • i miss the force said | April 14th 2018 @ 9:37am

      the article states that huge crowds turn up but that is not the truth. average crowd would still be 1000 with a few good ones. the final didnt get 20k either

      • concerned supporter said | April 14th 2018 @ 10:43am

        Were you there? Have you ever been to an Easts v Randwick or Manly v Warringah game?
        The gates were closed at the Grand Final, chock a block,

  • Johnno said | April 14th 2018 @ 3:56pm

    Private schoolboy rugby schools have to start caring about producing wallabies and merge there comps eg CAS/GPS/ISA, and get a TV deal for schoolboy rugby like in NZ and Ireland and south africa. Private schools in these nations wanna and care about beating the All Blacks perhaps our GPS schools and other private schools should start caring about beating the all blacks and have higher standard comps and more commercilization to make the wallabies more competitive vs the AB’s and world rugby in general. But no they wanna be like the NSL soccer in the old days and do there own thing not make the wallabies great again ala rugby factory culture..

  • robel said | April 15th 2018 @ 11:52pm

    Here’s how (e)RA treat their grass roots.
    https://thewest.com.au/sport/western-force/rugby-australia-aid-saved-the-melbourne-rebels-sealed-western-forces-fate-ng-b88806968z
    They deliberately squandered an additional $500k (on top of the other “extra” $15MM) on the rebels along with two former rebels directors gifting another $500k to allow Cox to sell the rebels to the vru.
    And yet the ARU knocked back $10’sMM from Twiggy.
    Shameful, treacherous and dispicable.

  • RugbyNuffy said | July 19th 2018 @ 9:06am

    It seems that money is the panacea. Does anyone think that if Rugby Aus sacrificed some short term profits and sold the NRC to free-to-air, they could have benefitted long term through increased exposure and therefore marketability? Hence, more money long-term to invest at all levels. The deal seemed short-sighted to me. Am I wrong?