Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Peter Bills' World Cup blog: TV rules rugby schedule

After the haka, New Zealand and their opposition must wait for TV advertisements to end before the match can begin

The heated complaints of Samoan player Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu about what he perceived as the IRB’s unfair structuring of the playing schedule for tier 2 countries and below, has certainly been the talk of the town.

You could just say the boy went over the top, comparing his team’s lack of rest with the Holocaust (no, don’t ask me why – I didn’t get that one either).



I doubt whether Fuimaono-Sapolu has ever been to a place like Auschwitz but I’d recommend he does. I went there a couple of winters ago on a January day when the temperature in that part of Poland was -15 at mid-day.



Believe me, mate, what’s going on here in New Zealand at this World Cup has NOTHING to do with the Holocaust, with victims dressed only in pyjamas ordered to line up at midnight in those temperatures and being starved and beaten.



A very, very unfortunate analogy, to say the least..



But having said that, the Samoan speaks the truth about the playing schedule. Wales got 7 days rest before they played the Samoans while the latter had just three. Fair? Of course not.



The absurdity of the situation is that the IRB, who have graciously said they won’t take any action against the player for speaking his mind (that’s far better than the ERC who fine players or coaches thousands of euros for daring to tell the truth), have always said they want to bring on and develop the lower tier nations.



But you’re unlikely to do that if you give them a schedule from hell. Japan, for instance, are having to play 3 matches in 11 days at this tournament yet England had 8 days off between their first and second games. Bizarre.



Georgia played their first two games in just 4 days and their last 2 in 5 days. As Fuimaono-Sapolu suggested, if the leading nations of the world like New Zealand or England had been presented with that schedule they’d have been howling from the rooftops over it.



Why does it happen? Simple. The IRB, like every other rugby body, lies down before the whims of the TV companies. The game has been flogged to television.



If the TV companies say ‘jump’ to rugby – and by that broad term I mean the French Top 14, the Tri-Nations, the Aviva Premiership, the ERC..everyone – the organising body replies ‘Yes Sir, how far’?



TV rules the game. Why is it that at this World Cup, once the anthems have been played and the various hakas or other war dances performed (when are England going to introduce a Morris Men type dance?) – and the players and referee have taken their places for the kick-off, they have to hang around, try and keep warm and wait?



Why, because TV wants to squeeze in some more ads, of course. Make more money. The game can wait for them.



TV doesn’t want the small fish of world rugby, the likes of Tonga, Japan, Namibia, Russia, Canada and Italy playing at peak viewing times, like Saturday nights NZ time.



So they’re squeezed in around the big boys’ schedule and given matches on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday nights or such like.



It’s the way of this professional rugby world...

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