There may be those who will feel uncomfortable that New Zealand Rugby is preparing to ask the government for financial assistance due to the coronavirus crisis – help, I hasten to add, it is eligible for as an incorporated society.
There are other societies and groups who may or may not be more worthy – that’s for the government to decide – but what is increasingly clear is that moving to a sharing of resources as the pandemic hits nearly every industry in the pocket is becoming more prevalent and necessary to prevent wholesale insolvencies.
The idea of a brand like the All Blacks being bailed out by the taxpayer might be difficult to swallow, but NZ Rugby is also responsible for the running of the grassroots game in New Zealand and most of us understand the value of sport – and rugby in its various forms in particular – to our children and communities.
So for World Rugby to say this week they are working hard to mitigate the financial effects of the fast-spreading virus as the game is put on hold around the world and national bodies nervously watch as revenue dries up is, how can I put this, the bare minimum they should be doing.
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Let’s face it, the three July tests against Wales (two) and Scotland (one) are unlikely to happen in New Zealand even though they are apparently still being planned for. Will the All Blacks kick off their Rugby Championship campaign with a test against the Wallabies in Melbourne on August 8 as scheduled? Who knows at this point.
What we do know is that World Rugby is working on different fixture possibilities for this year – cynics will say that it took a global pandemic for them to finally work on a global calendar – including November tests in the Northern Hemisphere for the Sanzaar nations.
Currently the All Blacks are scheduled to play a test against just about everyone’s second favourite team, the Brave Blossoms, in Japan, before travelling to the United Kingdom to play England, Wales and Scotland from November 7 onwards. Could the All Blacks stay longer and also play Ireland and perhaps another fixture? Possibly.
What is now almost beyond debate if those fixtures go ahead is that World Rugby must allow for revenue sharing from those tests for the first time.
The All Blacks in particular are constant stadium fillers in the United Kingdom but don’t receive a bean – the same applies to every other nation, even those with more pressing financial needs such as Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.
The argument of the home nations is that the All Blacks make their money in the middle of the year when they host nations like Wales and Scotland (increasingly unlikely this year).
England make an estimated profit of $20 million from every Twickenham test but their income, and that of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, is linked to servicing the debts on their stadiums, which they own. The All Blacks don’t have that issue, nor do many other nations.
But while the coronavirus is bringing us (virtually) closer together via sharing in many cases, it is also highlighting great inequities such as the fact Prince Charles, who has tested positive for Covid-19, is unlikely to have to worry about a lack of hospital beds and ventilators in the UK – merely due to an accident of birth.
There will be those who always elevate themselves above their workers due to a perceived greater status; it’s why some company executives fly business class and don’t hesitate to send their workers into economy for the same journeys.
That sort of attitude may never change but there may be less tolerance of it because as this virus has shown in stark relief, there are no companies without workers and no sports without athletes.
We may soon discover whether that penny has dropped for those who run rugby in the north.