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 Post subject: English Professional Rugby a small town game
PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 8:36 pm 
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Sergeant Major
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Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:22 pm
Posts: 400
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Looking at the current Aviva Premier team clubs, it is surprising to note that only the Quins and Sale are located in a major metropolis. Even those two play in Salford an Twickenham respectively. Quins excepted, the elite core (Bath, Gloucester, Leicester, Northampton, Saracens even Wasps) play in small cities and towns (Bath, Gloucester, Leicester, Northampton, Barnet and High Wycombe). Granted, Leicester is a respectably large conurbation but it is not a Birmingham, Manchester or even a Sheffield. The catchment area for spectators in the league's locations is very small on average and the major cities scarcely have any representation. In very recent years three of rugby's largest (Bristol, Leeds and Newcastle) were relegated from the league.

It occurred to me that there is a great motivation for the current core elite clubs to keep a tight grip on the growth of other potential rivals. If our major cities became successful and able to garner a wider interest and appetite among their citizenry, the current core elite would find themselves facing a great challenge to their supremacy.

Business people are always on the look for good money-making opportunities but none seem to be very interested in investing in professional rugby in England. Why should they when our most successful clubs operate primarily in the nation's small to medium sized towns? Why should they when he most successful club has a ground capacity of a mere 20,000 spectators and almost all the other clubs have capacities of a little more than half that amount.

So where does that leave the professional game in England? Is there the capacity to attract a mass market or will it remain the cottage market it currently is?
Southern hemisphere rugby is big business. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have 27 club stadiums with capacities of 25,000 or higher. England has only one, Darlington Mowden Park (25,000), on the list I read. Playing in major cities, Johannesburg Lions capacity is 62,567, Queensland Reds in Brisbane is 52,500 and Auckland Rugby is 50,000).

Structured as it is, there is little incentive for major investors to join professional rugby when the marketplace is dominated by the country's smaller cities and by short-sighted management of the game with an apparently complete lack of vision or ambition.


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 Post subject: Re: English Professional Rugby a small town game
PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 9:38 pm 
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Colour Sergeant
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Joined: Sun Jan 29, 2012 11:36 pm
Posts: 434
Location: Kidderminster
Might I suggest that one of the reasons (and I'm sure it's only one of many) is the history of Rugby in this country. In the days before professionalism the world of Rugby was ruled by an elite which made today's setup look positively utopian. I was only really familiar with the North Western clubs, but I know that at one time Waterloo, Otley, Sale and others who were as good as any in the country had been on the waiting list for 10-20 years to get a fixture with the likes of Harlequins. In the Midlands, Birmingham's main team was of course Moseley, who along with others played mere lip service to amateurism. They had a First Team Only bar, and when, as usual, three teams were playing at home, three different meals were served to the teams, ranging from a lavish banquet to a snack.
If you played or even watched Rugby you were almost certainly ex-Public School. Nothing wrong with that; I myself spent the years normally devoted to education at such an establishment, but it was an elitist sport from top to bottom.
This historical legacy was absent from the former colonies, who to our horror wanted to treat is a sport for all. I don't pretend to know the answers, but I suspect the above is one of the underlying reasons.

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 Post subject: Re: English Professional Rugby a small town game
PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:39 pm 
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Regiment Sergeant Major
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Joined: Sun Oct 24, 2010 7:55 pm
Posts: 542
Location: Kempsey
Until state schools get into compulsory sport on a scale private schools do we will struggle in terms of playing and spectating. I went to a private school and state schools were so easy to beat as most of the opponents had only played the game a couple of times in their lives. It gets seen as a posh boys game to the point were many state school lads simply refuse to get involved. My friends from state schools would always call me a rugby gay boy. Couple this to the complex rules and it will always be a struggle.

Traditionally farmers liked playing rugby, coupled to many private schools being situated in rural areas, which is why provincial towns dominated the sport. The southern hemisphere tends to have better weather meaning more chance to play sport. Add to this the mentality in these countries is different, possibly due to the history of the nations. It wasn't that many generations ago when the first settlers arrived and would have needed a fighting spirit.

If rugby really wants to sell itself then it needs exposure. Get away from sky and accept the lower bid from the BBC or ITV.


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 Post subject: Re: English Professional Rugby a small town game
PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:36 pm 
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Sergeant
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Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 10:46 am
Posts: 114
companies dont invest in Rugby because there is no way to make any money at it. the small town thing in all likelyhood provides a link to a local fan who supports the club and happens to be mega wealthy and gets the tax breaks on his/her investment. the larger cities dont engender the local community issue like bath, gloucester, leiceter and to a smaller degree, although growing, worcester do. Rugby is not a way to make money, oversold, over promoted and not enough people able to watch it on tv for the sponsorship to be actual value.


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 Post subject: Re: English Professional Rugby a small town game
PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:49 am 
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Sergeant Major
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Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:22 pm
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Location: Tucson, Arizona
Rugby is big time, popular and profitable in New Zealand, South Africa and Australia while in southern France Rugby Union is considered the national sport. The largest TV audience in France in 2011 was the New Zealand-France rugby final with 15.4 million viewers on TF1. I truly believe that until rugby authorities and the Premier owners start thinking objectively about their market and their revenue sources and begin seriously collaborating to create a successful business/industry, rugby will never succeed in commanding major public interest in England. The bigger owners will continue to focus all their energies on their own interests at the expense of the smaller clubs and professional rugby will fail to focus on creating a competitive environment and on drastically increasing their market penetration and garnering a significantly wide audience. The entire league, rugby authorities and the media will persist in ignoring the challenge English rugby is facing in the professional sports marketplace.


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 Post subject: Re: English Professional Rugby a small town game
PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 7:50 pm 
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Sergeant
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 8:08 pm
Posts: 164
whether you like it or not in the UK it is football that is the major draw, that is where the people go and the money follows. Also rugby popularity in Australia depends on the state you live in.


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 Post subject: Re: English Professional Rugby a small town game
PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:59 pm 
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Sergeant Major
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Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:22 pm
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Location: Tucson, Arizona
ledburyloafer wrote:
whether you like it or not in the UK it is football that is the major draw, that is where the people go and the money follows. Also rugby popularity in Australia depends on the state you live in.


I agree regarding football in England and gaining more popularity than football would never be the goal of professional rugby. However, expanding its market and broadening it's spectator appeal should be a primary goal. As such, the major and medium cities should be the target. There are millions of souls who grew up playing or following rugby who now live in major populations in England but most of them do not have a club to support at the professional level while the best rugby is played in areas with populations of +/- 100,000 people e.g. Exeter, Bath, Gloucester, Worcester, Oxford, Barnet, High Wycombe, Northampton are small/medium size towns. Leicester and Reading are a little larger, while Sale and Twickenham are in Greater Manchester and Greater London respectively but neither is home to a club bearing a name that appeals to the population of its local big city.


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