The tiny, indeed almost non-existent audiences, despite sunny days, at most provincial rugby matches provides further evidence of the game’s fading appeal.

Personally, I find it largely unwatchable because of the incessant whistle-blowing, on my observation, at about one minute intervals, followed by 2 minute stints standing about, or setting and invariably re-setting scrums. Time-wasting seems at times to be the objective.

One time-wasting oddity peculiar to maori players is when re-starting at either the 25 drop-out line or half-way following a try. Why it is necessary for the re-starting kicker to bend from the waist and slowly bounce the ball five times, then straighten and kick it?

Rugby aficionados express alarm at its declining participation in schools in the face of more attractive options. It doesn’t surprise me given its rule-ridden constant interruptions. No other sport has such a degree of referee involvement.

I’d love to see a repeat here of an incident in a soccer match three years back, in a small village in one of Mexico’s rougher regions.

After a player abused the ref for his penalty decision, the ref pulled out a gun and shot him dead.

This led to the side-line supporters of the deceased player’s team, storming the field and hacking off the ref’s head. This was placed atop a stick on the middle of the half-way line and the game resumed happily without further bloody whistle-blowing interference. I’d pay serious money to see that happen here in a rugby match.

From rugby devotees viewpoint it could only be for the greater good as for all the talk of rule reform, nothing happens.


I suspect the rules department is under the thumb of English beef merchants harvesting penalties.

There’s a lot to unpack as to why I think the sport is on decline in NZ. But, coming from this lad from the south – and purely my personal POV – some things that I feel have not helped…
-> The start of the Super 12 in 1996. Professional rugby was, at least as far as I could tell, the beginning of the end of why the game was so much fun to be part of when it was just you and your stinky mates, all trying to beat the s**t out of another team of blokes over the course of two halves who you knew that, when the game was over, you’d down a few ales with. No harm, no foul. Ever.
-> Dropping ‘Otago’ from the Highlanders name. (And similarly, as far as I understand things, with the Crusades, Hurricanes, Chiefs and Blues.) Dropping the regional names that immediately tied each franchise to their roots was, and continues to be, a mistake in a market as small as New Zealand’s.
-> Abandoning the NPC in the mid-2000s. And sure, while a reconstituted form of the NPC has returned, where’s the simple three division, promotion/relegation format? And why ‘Premiership’ vs ‘Championship’? For the uninitiated, at a glance which is the more alluring?

And, finally, the consistent refusal to bring back Buck. I think it was that, more than anything else, that really sounded the game’s death knell in NZ.

    So true…

    Professional sport is here to pacify the masses, as a means of distraction from their less than ordinary lives. But also to make money for the select few.

    Playing sport for pleasure is a very distant relative.

    It wont be long before Soccer is the more watched sport locally.

Enthusiasts from the past have stopped watching
Night matches doesn’t help
But the main problem. Big, dumb, charging players Selected on speed but mainly size
School kids drop out when the size factor makes it non competitive
Just take a look at the line up
I haven’t watched a game for years. The opening Haka doesn’t help

Rugby has been put to the sword by TV rights deals that have seen it taken away from general viewership to be seen only by older wealthier aficionados on high priced sky subscriptions. That has wiped out interest amongst younger generations and removed if from most people’s awareness. The same has happened to F1 – short term profit extraction from a small group of well off older obsessive fans at the cost of long term steep decline in following and, ultimately, ruin. Maybe it was inevitable anyway given exodus of eyeballs from TV.

A handful of reasons:
1.Habit: Once people stop going, its very hard to restart the en-masse uptake. Particularly once the season ticket holders stop coming
2. Generally poor stadiums. Overpriced F&B, poor parking and so on
3. Too many random teams. I stopped watching once teams from Japan and Sth America got involved. Not that they are bad teams-just too many away games in the middle of the night.
4. Women playing a greater role in life-better things to do than just “go to the rugby” because blokes want to.
5. The weather. There are only so many times you can stare in to the teeth of a Southerly gale and sit on a soaking seat.
6. Too many rules-see SRJ comments.
7.Too many teams. The talent is diluted and the standard drops.
8. The country growing up and maturing. The old rules about what boys had to do disappearing etc.
Finally as a comment about the Mexican soccer match-I wonder how much injury time got added?

My drinking buddies are Ref’s and Coaches and I listen to them talking about the decline of Rugby. The opinion seems to be that with the risk averse mentality where everybody has to be kept safe mothers steer their children to a sport although physical is considered safe.
Clubs can’t even get enough players at the grade level.
Every story about concussion or spine injury just stokes the irrational fear for mum. To try and be seen to make the game safe it’s now become an unwatchable sport.
If you haven’t pushed back against this bubble wrap nonsense then don’t complain because so many do nothing about what is happening and this the direct result of an apathetic community.
Without installing fortitude into the young players and by making everything safe in the long run they become less safe along with the society they create.

Rugby is a classic example of over promise and under deliver

I’ve always felt that heads on pikes are underrated..

I’ve commented to this effect on Kiwiblog over the years but it does not even deserve a post over at our No Minister blog, such is the decline of the sport.

Agree with all the reasons given above but will give my personal take on it.

When I first returned from the US twenty years ago I was keen to see my first rugby in years, just to see what professionalism had done to the game. It all seemed okay but the tell was a grim Winter’s night in 2001 (I think) when the All Blacks were playing the Springboks. I’d grown up listening to Dad’s tales of the 1937 and ’56 Boks. I’d attended the 3rd test match in ’81 and the Waikato game. Yet we all knew that between a poor Bok backline and filthy, cold nighttime weather the passing would be terrible and tries few.

With 20 minutes to go and the All Blacks leading by just 9 points I switched off the TV and went to bed. If you had told me years earlier that I would ever do that for such a Test match I’d have told you that you were crazy.

Then there’s the Haka. I loved it in earlier times when it was done occasionally, usually in England. But clearly the marketing boys had wet themselves with delight and insisted it be done before every AB’s match. It’s just stupid now.

Finally my kids. After dumping SKY in 2003, following our ejection from the World Cup, they had nowhere else to see it, so zero interest from my two boys. Same with their friends, even those with SKY TV. Multiply that by thousands across NZ and it’s not a good look for the future. As the Boomers who jumped on SKY go into the grave and thousands of my generation have dumped it for Internet streaming over the last twenty years (there’s still a few holdouts in their 50’s), the game will decline further and faster.

God knows what happens when the SKY contracts are up for negotiation as they have to be feeling the Internet streaming pinch as well. So many channels for the young folk to watch, starting with PewdiePie.

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