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Another partial privatisation that has failed

Written By: - Date published: 10:32 am, July 18th, 2022 - 37 comments
Categories: assets, privatisation, Privatisation, sport, uncategorized - Tags:

I watched the Rugby test on Saturday night.  One side played with passion and vigour.  Their forward pack dominated and the defensive effort from the backs was superb.  The four tries they scored were the direct results of unrelenting and sustained pressure.

The other side was the All Blacks who displayed all the passion and vigour of a National Party conference.

The All Black coach Ian Foster is getting a lot of stick.  When you earn the big bucks you live and die by the results.

For me however the thing that was evident was the lack of passion showed by the All Blacks.

And this is not a one off .  The results over the past couple of years have been decidedly ordinary.

What else has been happening during this time?  Agreed that Foster has been coach.

But during this time New Zealand Rugby has been engaged in a process to sell its soul and a stake in its assets to US Investment Firm Silver Lake.

I analysed this deal in April last year and said this:

We are left with the situation where something born of our communities and nurtured and supported by our local and central governments is potentially being sold off to a US private equity firm.  Just so that television audiences can be entertained and profits made.

If the sale happens it will be a very dark day for New Zealand rugby.  The word “grassroots” will no longer be able to be applied to the national game.

There are other theories about what has happened.  Texters to Morning Report thought it was the result of a rampant woke culture.  The funny thing is that most people claim wokeism is a worldwide phenomenon.  If so then I would be keen to understand how Irish wokeness has had less impact than New Zealand wokeness.

New Zealand Rugby’s major problem is that it is now a made for TV commodity played by well played gladiators where the dollar is the driving force.  And as it has evolved it has lost some of the passion that used to be such an integral part of every All Black performance.

37 comments on “Another partial privatisation that has failed ”

  1. Bruce 1

    'well played gladiators ' I think you mean payed

    But yes I agree big pay cheques seem to stifle passion, contrary to what the capitalists tell us.

    • Cricklewood 1.1

      Excepting of course that the most of the Irish will be earning considerably more than the Abs with their clubs… which are privately funded….

    • Belladonna 1.2

      Really? I don't think that a lack of passion is a characteristic of the really big sport franchises internationally. Look at NBA or Club Football (Soccer) in the Europe. They're the guys who get the really big money. Plenty of passion to win (not least, because they get a really nice bonus when they do) – but also because they know their international reputation is reflected in what they get paid.

      Suspect that the ABs (like all international teams) are going through a bad patch. It happens. Sometimes it's the coach. Sometimes it's other stuff. It's rarely the money.

  2. Maurice 2

    "And this is not a one off . The results over the past couple of years have been decidedly ordinary.

    What else has been happening during this time?"

    We have had a 2nd term Labour government which does not have to rely upon the Green Party!

    Note that it was a “Green” team which sunk the All Blacks

  3. bwaghorn 3

    Na we just need a coach with a pulse ,a forward /captain willing to die for the win and a center that's 4 ft across the shoulders who scares the opposition backs witless.

  4. Sanctuary 4

    Scotty Stevenson over at thespinoff sums it up:

    "…I have no desire to revisit the harebrained arrogance of the New Zealand national body which has, over the last decade, decimated club rugby, killed the National Provincial Championship, homogenised Super Rugby, burned Australia, Argentina and South Africa… …what happens when you package up 120 years of respected representative sporting success, call it a brand, and sell it off to Oxbridge dudebro buddies in an act of ego-inflating, nausea-inducing corporate capriciousness…

    "…In the meantime, there’s nothing that can be said other than once upon a time, innovation underpinned the game here in New Zealand. All Blacks teams consistently imposed their tactical superiority on others, convinced (and rightly so) that an abundance of athletic and technical ability existed within the nation’s broad church of styles. That broad church has been reduced to a cult, a one-size-fits-all approach informed not by variety but by reactionary methodology and protectionist ideology…"

    One of the biggest problems is the NZRFU strategy for 20+ years has been one of managed retreat, where everything – club rugby, the mass player base, the NPC, even Super Rugby – has been subordinated too and sacrificed for the sole aim of buying time for the All Blacks. That has IMHO imbued the NZRFU with a passive-aggressive and defeatist siege mentality.

    Every egg went into one particular basket. The model was simple – forget about rugby as "the game of the people" in return for money, money, money. So the game has been locked behind a paywall for a generation and given to a truly awful monopoly in Sky TV – a company so dependent on rugby for survival it actually has done a business deal with the NZRFU, but also a business now so far off the pace in technology and so reviled by it's customers it knows it would go broke overnight without rugby. So a generation of kids have grown not watching the game, which means the pay TV audience is now aging – I think what happened to NASCAR is similar to what has happened to rugby:

    So now if the All Blacks fail they've got nothing. The days of 25,000 rabid fans keen on revenge on the aulde enemy packing a stadium for a provincial home game for a second leg clash between, say, Hawkes Bay and Taranaki are gone. The days when you might not follow club rugby that much but by George you know you didn't want those swine at Old Boys defeating your guys in Pirates are so much ancient history.

    I played rugby in the 1980s at high school with two future All Blacks (the fact that I did play rugby as a kid means I have kept up an interest in the game), and we had a reasonable first XV that was competitive with everyone. Now I see my old school regularly on the receiving end of 50+ hidings. This destruction of competitive participation at all levels was meant to be compensated by an elite academy system with talent scouts producing a conveyor belt of talent into Super Rugby from school rugby. Only that hasn't worked. Schoolboy rugby has been hijacked by a tiny coterie (about fifteen schools completely dominate) of elite schools who only want one type of player – big bulldozing early developers – so they can win first XV competitions. Everyone else – late developers, kids who just want to play, converts from other sports who might want to dabble – are largely doing something else now. And those elite high school kids? They've had a red carpet rolled out for them from the age of 13-14 years old. All they've ever had to do was step along it. When they get to professional rugby they are very entitled and mostly neither mentally tough enough or that interested in being an All Black, beyond maybe a season or three to burnish their CV before going on the rugby diaspora for better money.

    So no new talent, and no one watching. How ironic that the country that was the keenest for the game to go professional is mostly likely to be the one where that hubris leads to the sports destruction.

    • James Simpson 4.1

      I agree with you.

      In most other sports and in other rugby playing nations, the club competition is the basis for everything. Look at the NRL, the English Premier League, France Top 14 etc. There you have strong tribal rivalries between fans. Then from there the best players get picked to representative honours.

      New Zealand rugby has it backwards. It is the All Blacks first, second and third. The best payers are wrapped in cotton wool and required to rest during Super Rugby, which has the effect of killing that competition. And they never play NPC.

      What we have is professional competition that is nothing more than a training exercise for the All Blacks.

    • Puckish Rogue 4.2

      Preach brother!

    • woodart 4.3

      very good post . the comparison to nascar and its aging declining audience is valid. as are the forgetting of the amateur base of both sports . I wonder if nz rugby is trying to hard to be like nfl(american football). that sport is now struggling with a small number of amateur players and a changing audience demographic. comparisons to the nats? both nz rugby and the nats are run by the same sort of conservative thinkers, who do the same old, same old, expecting a different result.

  5. Incognito 5

    Passion and vigour only get you so far when you‘re [still] at the top. Skill and leadership matter as much if not more – they are not mutually exclusive, of course, but need to be integrated – especially when the competition is tough & tight.

    The National Party doesn’t have what it takes except for their insatiable hunger for power and a whatever-it-takes mentality to win.

    Labour and also the Greens have some skills and some leadership to offer but they lack passion and vigour; they look like an old troupe of tired damaged players who cannot wait for the bruising season to be over. That doesn’t inspire the grassroots!

  6. Populuxe1 6

    It's increasingly less and less relevant to the majority who thanks to technology can now follow other sports, or better yet, have lives of their own.

  7. I concur with everything 'Sanctuary' said. Sky viewing of Rugby, denied so many of us without access to Sky to enjoy the game of Rugby in our home, with the whole family engaged.

    • Sanctuary 7.1

      Sky is hopelessly legacy technology. Even the English Premier League, the very pinnacle of sporting excess, recognises that you need to have a few free live to air big matches to keep the interest up via Amazon Prime or whatever platform.

    • SPC 7.2

      There are free sports streaming sites – not the same as a TV in the home – but online.

    • nzsage 7.3

      This sums it up perfectly for me MC.

      Corporate greed wins over family and community spirit… again.

  8. Mike the Lefty 8

    Blaming the All Blacks loss on "woke culture"?

    Sounds like denial of responsibility to me.

    Fact is the Irish played better than the All Blacks. It was not the fault of the ref, the conditions, the rules or "the woke".

    The rugby establishment might blame "woke culture" on rugby's convoluted rules but actually the rot settled in some three decades before the word "woke" meant anything more than the moments after you finish sleeping. New rules were introduced, most ostensibly to prevent serious player injuries but they also had the effect of making the game slower and more difficult to referee.

    I remember a TV ad for Vogels bread that featured All Black legend Colin Meads commenting "these new rugby rules have ruined the game, its still called rugby, but its not the same".

    Watching the teams set their lineouts and scrums in the modern game is like watching bad acting in a movie – totally choreographed, predictable and somewhat tedious.

    If I watch rugby, I prefer to go down to the local park and watch the boys playing in the mud – not for money or glory but simply because they love the game.

  9. Corey Humm 9

    This is a country that historically votes out the incumbent govt if the all blacks lose. That always makes my head explode.

    The deputy PMs comments about how "you can't win when you make so many mistakes" sounded like he was talking about the Labour party's second term hopefully we get "glimpses in the second half" of this term.

    I think the left should stay away from rugby in general, we always underestimate it's popularity, last week the left were calling rugby fans "the rich" and raining misery and being the fun police and attacking 70% of the people in a city of half a million people for wanting a much delayed stadium to be built without delay so we dontt have to go to another city to see a concert or abs game.

    Tbf I'm a lefty who hates and despises rugby 🤣 lol I'm just not sure an overweight deputy leader of a floundering government facing certain defeat despite being elected in an earth shattering landslide less than two years ago has any right to be criticizing elite athletes athleticism or game match fitness.

    • Mike the Lefty 9.1

      I’m of the political left but I don’t hate rugby. I just don’t buy into the professional branding corporatism that pervades the game at the top level. The best rugby to watch is club level which you can watch (usually for free) at your local sports ground where the level of honest commitment is real.

  10. newsense 10

    There’s a great video on YouTube analyzing the Wallabies decline and insights on WR team success in general. Cohesion in the team is important.

    I don’t think it’s a mystery though that Sam Cane isn’t in the Richie McCaw bracket. Few are. Foster isn’t as good at head coaching as the three coaches before him.

    In general event television is waining and the number of people who play or follow rugby like a religion is on the wain. Maybe.

    But the competition structure is almost as confusing as cricket. Getting 5k or less along to games indicates a force declining. Sport requires active participation to keep going: refs, volunteers, fans, coaches, players, sponsors… that’s an awful lot of active good will you don’t get after being trained to be on the couch.

    and yes leaving behind a colonial identity where our biggest stars are South Africa, Australia and sometimes Britain may mean rugby declines too. Or it thrives. But it needs something better than this.

    • In Vino 10.1

      I don’t think it’s a mystery though that Sam Cane isn’t in the Richie McCaw bracket. Few are. Foster isn’t as good at head coaching as the three coaches before him.

      Unfair to Sam

      As I remember, McCaw was a bloody useless captain at first. Remember that time the French knocked us out of the World Cup because Wayne Barnes didn't see a forward pass?

      For the last 15 mins or so the dumb All Blacks hammered away at a determined French defence, and lost. McCaw (fairly new as captain) never even thought of trying a drop goal, or any different tactic. Useless.

      It took McCaw quite a long time to learn how to be a good captain. Sam Cane has not yet had that privilege

      • Puckish Rogue 10.1.1

        That was 2007, Richard was first made ABS captain in 2004

        • In Vino

          So McCaw was a shit captain for at least 3 years?

          Sam Cane is getting a rougher deal than I had thought!

          • Puckish Rogue

            Maybe your powers of recollection are not what they once were…

            • In Vino

              OK. I don't really know or care much about Rugby: I just remembered McCaw's failure in that game and thought that Sam Cane may be getting judged harshly in that light.

              If you have greater knowledge, please feel free to elucidate.

  11. Stuart Munro 11

    This process of gentrification in sport has been going on for centuries. Horse racing was a popular passion back when everyone rode or wished to ride horses – now it's a shadow of what it was in its its heyday.

    Rugby was the football of the nobility, and when it became NZ's national sport, that was an assertion of our society's egalitarianism. Roger Douglas et al put paid to all that. The RSEs that pick the fruit and milk cows here now don't build their dreams of accomplishment around H shaped posts.

    The sport can recover – but if it wants to be truly national again it has to offer something in the way of intangible benefits. Something that reaches down as far as the women that might like their children to play something that makes less clay-stained gear to wash and somehow dry through the rainy part of winter.

    A good coaching team and things'll come right for a while. It might be though, that there's a better obsession out there for the 21st century.

  12. SPC 12

    I don't see much connection between the state of the game (administrative or amateur), and the performance of the AB's, let alone wider society.

    The latter is a function of the talent available and utilisation of it, as players in a team and the team coaching/management.

    We have not won at U 20 level for some time, so will have to live off a historic winning record against all nations … as we fade down the rankings. It will make winning easier to savour, as it will occur less often. But it will mean that we lose more and more of our players going north for money (as the status of the long AB career wanes)*

    It was inevitable that at some point that we would lose our amateur era advantage – which was the NPC/provincial game (South Africa had the Currie Cup). South Africa has made the strategic decision to abandon the south for the money of the north (to retain players it was losing and better time zones). This will give them a competitive advantage over us and is something we can do nothing about. We will try and retain international players in a Tasman bubble, but at some point if we lose too much talent will allow players over ** or after ** tests to go north and remain eligible for the AB's (so we remain as competitive as we would like to be).

  13. Binders full of women 13

    Rugby's toast– no kids are playing. Mums rightly concerned about MCE & dementia. But it's not just the conservative Nats that get wooed by the old salts in blazers. In my town field hockey and basketball are pumping but the facilities are so lacking that kids are training and playing at 9 30 at night. The Labour Govt came to town with $6mil for sports- the council had identified 6 priorities. The Govt went with #7! a new roof for the rugby grandstand . So 100 spectators can stay dry at 4 'Heartland' home games while watching early onset demetia. The cronyism is sickening.

  14. Ed 14

    Excellent article on this matter by John Minto over at the Daily Blog.


    Forget the fans – it’s the sponsors calling the tune on the All Blacks series defeat to Ireland

  15. Descendant Of Smith 15

    Rugby was always going to turn professional at some stage – people like Norm Hewitt were taking payments under the table and moving from club to club, French league were complaining about union pinching their players, the Japanese had jobs at ports that were simply fronts to play for their rugby teams with allowances like $6,000 to buy furniture for your flat – loopholes exploited everywhere.

    There had always been some of that – back in the 60's/70's players were lured to play in Wellington by being put in as managers of certain clothing shops.

    There were plenty of other drivers though to reduce playing numbers:

    1. Rogernomics opened up working on weekends and working longer hours to earn the same amount which not only reduced peoples ability to play and practise but meant for some they simply weren't even available on Saturday. Lots of community organisations were affected by this – Jaycees, Lions, Rotoract, etc. Rogernomics also decimated jobs in rural areas and so the demise of country clubs was basically set in stone. Small towns died and so did their rugby clubs. Rugby and cricket are pretty much urban sports now.
    2. The aging population was moving through and further reducing player numbers.
    3. We started seeing the overlap of cricket and rugby seasons – was a pain having to make choices between one or the other for at first practise and then actual playing.
    4. Sky for all the moaning about it above opened up coverage to a whole range of other sports barely seen on TV previously. This started to give kids other options.
    5.Immigration moved away from Britain to some extent to countries where rugby wasn't a sport. This exacerbated 4.
    6. TV rights shifted the games to night which lots of us didn't and still don't like. Loved 2:30 games in daylight but the money was in Europe and games for TV could not be scheduled to play at the same time in order to maximise viewing and sponsorship – so now it is one after the other after the other.
    7. We had already seen the decline of playing in the UK of soccer players past school age – if you hadn't been spotted young you stopped playing. It s still an issue even if you are spotted even today with 5 out of six youth given initial contracts are no longer playing by 21 or worse.

    "Chris Platts, whose 2012 doctorate for Chester University was based on questionnaires and interviews with 303 17- and 18‑year‑olds in 21 clubs’ academies, says only four have professional contracts now – a drop-out rate of 99%. "


    It isn't any surprise to see professional rugby go down the same track.

    The criticism of the rugby union is I think a little unfair. A spokesman for the Irish team was saying only recently that their rugby improved enormously after following the NZ model where players are contracted to the union not the clubs. I do think it is a much better model. Where I do think it can be improved from the club scene is by the addition of transfer fees based on duration of time for a club or province or country as well as the quality of the player. I do think it is fair that those that invest in the early training and development should be recompensed in some way.

    That being said I do think the tactics and coaching is poor at the moment – it is the deliberately playing out of position in particular that gets me. That and the incessant kicking. I find it as annoying as when Fitzpatrick was captain and we wouldn't take points on offer when we still needed to score twice – I'd have gone penalty then go for the try every time but it was always go for the try then hope for another penalty – so often we stuffed up the lineout, etc when we could have taken the three.

    Ireland are playing well, far less dropped ball, much more cohesive and much better kicking. Our old tactics of winning in the last twenty minutes simply are not up to it anymore. Teams have caught us in fitness terms – somewhat helped by substitutions with impact players only needing to be fit enough to play 20 minutes at high pace.

    I don't mind losing if we play well – I think that is the main issue most fans have – we are losing AND not playing well.

  16. tc 16

    Money changes everything.

    All blacks are like Barcelona FC imo.

    A team with a winning style and structures replicated by others keen to have similar success.

    With others now caught up selling off parts of the farm to fund the future is what Barca have done now as the Petro backed clubs are financially setting the pace.

    No guarantees it's going to end well for them.

  17. Hunter Thompson II 17

    No-one wins every time.

    Look at Brazil's soccer team – humiliated by Germany in a 2014 World Cup semi at 7 goals to 1. Yet soccer is the game Brazil was meant to be the world's best at.

    The Northern Hemisphere teams caught up with the ABs years ago and now have passed them. Brains will beat brawn every time.

    Mind you, the Ireland series could all be part of a cunning plan to make the ABs' opposition over-confident at the next RWC. Perhaps Baldrick is on the coaching panel?

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