Heather du Plessis-Allan: Rugby, our declining national sport

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 28 Feb 2020, 4:27PM

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Rugby, our declining national sport

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 28 Feb 2020, 4:27PM

I hope you weren’t expecting much from that high level review looking into how to save our declining national sport, Rugby.

So far, what we’ve seen is underwhelming at best, possibly even a little worrying.

Underwhelming because they’re trying to avoid telling us anything.

On the back of the review the rugby union’s put out a one page statement but you’d need a PhD in jargon to understand exactly what it means.

What’s clear though is that we’re obsessed with cutting costs, it’s all “growing revenue” and “removing inefficiencies” which sounds a lot like job cuts and removing double ups.

But there’s precious little about what rugby’s going to do to get kids playing again and crowds attending again.

Yes,  they are running out of money and that is a big problem.

But we also have crowds down 6% last year for Super Rugby even though there were four New Zealand squads in the finals.

We also have schools struggling to get enough kids interested in rugby or field enough squads.

Take Hutt Valley High, big school, 1700 students, couldn’t get enough players for three teams.

We have a five percent drop in registered teen players over ten years, that’s despite population growth and despite the uptick in interest in the woman’s game.

Parents are pulling kids out of the game over head injury concerns, basketball’s more attractive,  hardly anyone has time for Super Rugby.

Cost cutting is not going to fix any of that is it?

It doesn’t sound like there is an actual plan here.

It sounds like NZRU’s got a few recommendations, they’re going to tour those recommendations around the regions next week.

Then the provincial unions are all going to have a big korero with the NZRU and they’ll reach a joint decision together.

Where’s the leadership? Where’s the person with the vision?

Where’s the person saying ‘this is what’s going to save the game, make it happen?

Instead it looks a lot like this is becoming a consultative process without any firm deadline that’s only going to try to save money to plug an expected financial loss and we’re just going to end up doing this in another few years when the state of rugby gets even worse.

There's little in this that gives me confidence as a fan that they know what to do to save the game.