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Thread: Australian rugby outstripped by rival sports as Super Rugby struggles for visibility

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    Legend Contributor blueandblack's Avatar
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    Australian rugby outstripped by rival sports as Super Rugby struggles for visibility

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-...-pace/10835008

    "By Offsiders columnist Richard Hinds

    Australian rugby is coming for you and your children — or at least those kids whose schedules are not already filled by the sports that began raiding schoolyards and playgrounds years ago.

    The Get into Rugby Club program is intended to attract more participants to both 15-a-side and sevens rugby, which has traditionally depended heavily on private school networks to pad its playing ranks.

    So does the gift pack include a mini cravat in club colours? A reversible Super Rugby jersey that allows you to wear the winners' colours regardless of the result? A "my first stock market portfolio"?

    Yes, yes, we are perpetuating the hoary stereotypes of privilege and bandwagon jumping, which rightly irritate those diehards from all walks of life who have enjoyed the game's on-field evolution and revel in its international cache.

    But Australian rugby's unerring descent since the 2003 World Cup from genuine rival to the AFL and NRL to virtual second-tier sport not only invites but virtually demands a scathing assessment of its failure to break out of its core constituency and create a broader and younger following.

    If you don't know about Rugby Australia's (RA) failings, you haven't read the column radio host and former Wallabies coach Alan Jones has published — again and again and again — in The Australian, kicking the game's leaders as if they were climate-change-believing, bicycle-riding, Turnbull-related, coal seam gas advocates.

    But if Jones's attacks on RA headquarters can border on the hysterical, the belated attempt to win the hearts and minds of potential players exposes the opportunities lost by the sport's successive administrations as much as it highlights the efforts to catch up.

    You only had to take a cursory glance around the Australian sporting landscape in the past week to see the lengths to which other sports have already gone to win the intense competition for potential participants and "consumers".

    Even if the booming bats and even louder noises created by stadium DJs at BBL matches leave you with a throbbing headache, the increase in the number of kids playing entry-level and early-age junior cricket over the past few years is unarguable.

    The AFL has taken the idea of promotion over content to another level with Friday night's AFLX, a concept that depends almost entirely on gimmicks and "activations" to create the perception a glorified training drill is a real sport.

    Such is AFLX's desperation to be "down with the kids", it has seen the BBL's coin-flip-replacing bat flip and raised it a rock-paper-scissors contest.

    But while we press box curmudgeons frown at this festival of frippery, there will be plenty of boys and girls emulating the feats of the AFLX "super heroes" at over-subscribed AFL Auskick clinics this season.

    Meanwhile, football enjoys the vast participation appeal of its multinational, easy-to-play, relatively low-risk format; basketball courts are full to overflowing partly due to the NBA boom; and rugby league's junior appeal defies constant reputational damage, at least in its strongholds.

    Rugby has competed strongly in female participation through the Olympic champion rugby sevens team, although this hasn't changed the perception the game is both late to the kids' party and hamstrung by historical failings.

    Most obviously there is the lucrative pay-per-view TV deal that funded Super Rugby but simultaneously retarded growth in Australia where lack of free-to-air exposure left it is as merely a niche competition compared with the vast number of TV eyeballs trained to its major rivals.

    Australian rugby struggling for visibility

    For all the noise it made, the start of the Super Rugby season might have been played in a forest. At least outside its core constituency or in markets such as Perth, which RA came, saw, nearly conquered and then abandoned.

    This leaves an even greater dependence on the fortunes of the Wallabies to create visibility, a cumbersome burden for a team that has not won a World Cup since 1999 or a Bledisloe Cup series since 2002.

    Without team success, rugby has consequently had an increasingly greater promotional dependence on individual stars — be they home-grown, semi-imported or, like the current poster boy Israel Folau, pinched from rugby league.

    Rugby's star system came under scrutiny recently when Fairfax rugby writer and Offsiders panellist Georgina Robinson revealed high-profile players were being paid partly through the Australian Rugby Foundation (ARF), which allowed businesses to make private tax refundable contributions to player salaries.

    RA robustly defended this practice, which it claimed was commonplace across Australian sport, although the ARF payments are markedly different than the NRL's third-party agreements, which are (at least notionally) transparent promotional deals that don't raise questions about unseen access and influence.

    Either way, the revelation did nothing to debunk the notion that rugby remains a game dependent upon private patronage and big-end-of-town benefactors to prop up its business rather than revenue derived from its universal appeal.

    So, allowing for the game's other now ingrained problems, broadening the participation base with a well-orchestrated campaign aimed at getting more people to play, love and watch rugby seems a sensible response.

    Yet with BBL giving way to the AFL and NRL preseasons and kids flocking to football pitches and basketball courts, you can't help wonder why this didn't occur to someone at RA 15 years ago."

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    Legend Contributor Alison's Avatar
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    Very good article. And another reason (Brett McKay) why I remain to be convinced that the 9% increase in viewing figures in 2018 has not been skewed in some way.

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    Veteran sittingbison's Avatar
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    Skewed? Attendance was down at all four franchises, and Perth isn't included last year!! Despite having the best attendance at 15k per game. Foxtel? Laughable to suggest there are 10% MORE viewers when a fifth of the audience has just been alienated, and the Wallabies have had their worst ever season by an order of magnitude. People are switching Foxtel OFF not on.

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    AFLX > Super Rugby

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    Immortal Contributor shasta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jargan83 View Post
    AFLX > Super Rugby
    I think you're getting into the realms of fantasy now Corporal Jones.

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    Veteran valzc's Avatar
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    Wasn’t there another study (international) ie not biased, which refutes RA’s claims and the stats actually show a percentage of viewer drop? Can’t remember who the source was.

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    Possibly somebody who d I d something more scientific that tally up the numbers around tge rats arse boardroom on a napkin and express the same percentage of 'roughly 30 Million'

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    C'mon the

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    If Rugby is struggling for visibility than the A-League is a dead league walking. It's ratings this season have been abysmal. Last weekend the two Aus SR games out rated all of the A-League game combined.

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    If Rugby is struggling for visibility than the A-League is a dead league walking. It's ratings this season have been abysmal. Last weekend the two Aus SR games out rated all of the A-League game combined on Foxsports.

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    I could have sworn I heard an echo

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    Player cedric rainwater's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WCRugger View Post
    If Rugby is struggling for visibility than the A-League is a dead league walking. It's ratings this season have been abysmal. Last weekend the two Aus SR games out rated all of the A-League game combined.
    maybe because the fans actually went to see the games instead of sitting on their arses at home

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    cider my arse

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    Player cedric rainwater's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WCRugger View Post
    If Rugby is struggling for visibility than the A-League is a dead league walking. It's ratings this season have been abysmal. Last weekend the two Aus SR games out rated all of the A-League game combined on Foxsports.
    maybe because the fans actually went to see the games instead of sitting on their arses at home

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    cider my arse

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    Champion SPaRTAN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cedric rainwater View Post
    maybe because the fans actually went to see the games instead of sitting on their arses at home
    How do crowds compare? Some of them look decent and there are many more ALeague teams too

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    Quote Originally Posted by WCRugger View Post
    If Rugby is struggling for visibility than the A-League is a dead league walking. It's ratings this season have been abysmal. Last weekend the two Aus SR games out rated all of the A-League game combined.
    How much do you really know about this situation, though, WCR?

    Because there's a story underneath this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiap View Post
    How much do you really know about this situation, though, WCR?

    Because there's a story underneath this.
    Playing in Summer and the botched expansion process have really hurt the comp. They are going for 6 teams based in Sydney and Melbourne which is a lot. Wellington don’t know if they are in or out.

    The governing body is as bad as the RA and those who advocate for promotion/relegation don’t get how damaging that can be and there is no strong premier division.

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