At the time of writing, the most recent article the ABC online had published online relating to rugby was from Wednesday, May 27.
I am compelled to record this point because I feel that although incidental, it is reflective of a creeping indifference to the game by the mass media.
Whether the mainstream media are reflective of community indifference, or the broader community’s apathy is a reflection of media bias is not for me to judge – at least not today – however you slice it, it does not portend well for the future of rugby. Absence and obsolescence are too close for comfort.
Over the same period, rugby league had eleven articles published. It might be claimed with some justification that this was because the NRL had only just recommenced the season but the AFL, who haven’t kicked a behind in anger for a couple of months, had no fewer than nine articles as well.
I acknowledge and concede both codes garner considerably more support than rugby, but is it reasonable or fair for the national broadcaster to give as much as ten times the coverage to these sports than they have given to rugby union?
Ironically, it mirrors a similar problem for rugby league in the UK, where it too struggles for relevance in a congested marketplace. It hardly needs mentioning but football is woven into the very fabric of life over there. There is football and then daylight and some distance away, the rest of the sporting community.
Rugby league has had moments of sporadic appeal in Britain, but for the most part the sport struggles for attention outside of its birthplace in the north of England. Even there it is overshadowed by the other codes. Rugby, although still a bit player, does have a broader following than its counterpart.
I mention this not to be dismissive of rugby league but to make this salient point. The ABC’s equivalent in the UK no longer features rugby league in the banner at the top of their sports homepage. They do for rugby and if memory serves me correctly they did once for rugby league as well, but not now.
Sure, the BBC takes a passing interest in the sport and try to be all things to all people like most progressive institutions, but at the end of the day idealism and reality have a habit of parting ways and it would seem in terms of prioritisation, rugby league is to the BBC not simply the best, it is not even second best.
Refocusing on our own national broadcaster, what would it matter if like this week there is no rugby news reported or content to access?
It beggars belief that despite the internecine fighting in the sport and the imminent debut of a brand new, five-franchise tournament, the ABC had absolutely nothing to report on rugby for a little over half a week.
I don’t know who pays the ferryman but I do know that according to mythology it was traditional to do so by placing a coin in or upon the mouth of the dead. Rugby’s finances are so perilous that it couldn’t afford to pay for its own funeral but we are being premature.
Rugby, though in a comatose state, is not yet dead. What rugby needs is a chance to breathe again. To breathe fresh air. It needs to find a mouthpiece.
I call upon the national broadcasters to help give rugby a voice.
I have always found rugby is best played on a level playing field. All I ask is the national broadcasters, and I include SBS in this, allow rugby to access and play on the same level playing field as the other codes.
At the risk of damning with faint praise, rugby may no longer matter to all or even to most Australians, but it still matters to many. Perhaps in saying as much I have inadvertantly suggested a new ABC blog page. Yes, it’s one thumb’s up from me for “Rugby matters”.