Is the Rugby World Cup group play unfair?

The 2011 Rugby World Cup is underway, hosts New Zealand have looked strong so far, and defending champions South Africa barely got by Wales in their first match with a 17-16 victory.  The United States also notched a win against Russia, only their third in the history of the competition, and first against a team not named Japan.

I was discussing the Rugby World Cup with a friend in Canada who is quite passionate about the sport, and he noted that Canada coach Kieran Crowley went public with his criticism of the scheduling of group play in the Rugby World Cup.  In an article on The Telegraph, Crowley is quoted saying:

“It makes me laugh really when tier-two countries have four-day turnarounds and all the tier-one countries have seven-day turnarounds and eight-day turnarounds,”

My friend even found a nice table showing team rank, and the turn around between matches.

World Rnk Country   1-2   2-3   3-4   Avg
Pool A
1   NZ   7   8   8   7.67
5   France   8   6   7   7.00
12   Tonga   5   7   11   7.67
13   Japan   6   5   6   5.67
14   Canada   4   9   5   6.00

Pool B
4   England   8   6   7   7.00
7   Scotland   4   11   6   7.00
9   Argentina   7   8   7   7.33
16   Georgia   4   10   4   6.00
17   Romania   7   7   4   6.00

Pool C
2   Australia   6   6   8   6.67
8   Ireland   9   7   5   7.00
11   Italy   6   8   7   7.00
18   USA   4   8   4   5.33
19   Russia   5   5   6   5.33

Pool D
3   South Africa   6   5   8   6.33
6   Wales   7   8   6   7.00
10   Samoa   4   7   5   5.33
15   Fiji   7   8   7   7.33
20   Namibia   4   8   4   5.33

You will notice that as you go down each table, there is a tendency for the weaker teams to have to play on shorter turn around.  The real loser seems to be Samoa, who despite their #10 world ranking, has a 5.33 day average turn around, the lowest for any team.  While Canada and other “minnow” teams have said they just have to deal with the issue in any way they can (Tonga for example had to change 11 members from their starting squad because of a lack of rest), I got the feeling there was probably something else that played into the scheduling.  Television broadcast.

The tendency is that weekend matches, such as those hosted on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday tend to have higher ratings, as people will tend to have more leisure time to watch matches.  Sure enough, looking at hosts New Zealand (Ranked #1) play schedule, they play on Friday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday during group play.   Australia (Ranked #3) play on Saturday, Sunday, Friday, Saturday.  Namibia (Ranked #20, last in the tournament) plays on Saturday, Wednesday, Thursday, Monday.  Of course most of the minnows get a weekend game, but most of those are against the top ranked teams.  I haven’t analyzed the full schedule, but the implications seem clear.  The Rugby World Cup wants to maximize viewership, and they believe to do this, would be to schedule teams that are strongest on days that are best for television viewing.

Tournament Spokesperson Mike Jaspers pretty much confirmed this:

“This is a tournament with global interest, not just New Zealand. Factors considered were fan appeal, broadcast and commercial considerations as well as player welfare. So we think this is a fair and balanced schedule for all teams while also achieving the best result in terms of the wider interests of the game,”

Doesn’t seem to fair to me, Jaspers adds:

“The broadcast revenues that are generated by scheduling around the top nations’ matches are reinvested by the IRB (International Rugby Board) to increase the competitiveness of the so-called smaller nations.”

I’d really like to know exactly  how that is being done.

H/T (Hat-Tip) to donimator for pointing out these facts to me.

 

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2 Responses to Is the Rugby World Cup group play unfair?

  1. sienna1 says:

    Kiaora (Greetings) from New Zealand. I have a preference for the draw to be run along the same lines as the UEFA draw for the Champions League…Done ‘LIVE’ for the global estate to bear witness to.

    Its not as if one has to go through a qualifying process, only the players’ from their respective nations have to vie to obtain a spot in the squad after it has been trimmed down to the required number by means of a ‘Culling’ by their ‘Selectors’

    Tournament Spokesperson Mike Jaspers pretty much confirmed this:

    “This is a tournament with global interest, not just New Zealand. Factors considered were fan appeal, broadcast and commercial considerations as well as player welfare. So we think this is a fair and balanced schedule for all teams while also achieving the best result in terms of the wider interests of the game,”

    “The broadcast revenues that are generated by scheduling around the top nations’ matches are reinvested by the IRB (International Rugby Board) to increase the competitiveness of the so-called smaller nations.”

    These are the words espoused from a ‘Dollar Signs In The Eyeball Suit and Tie’.

    Hosting the RWC means far more than an All Blacks Win, it means a winfall OR thats what our government hopes, which is why the government passed the 2007 ‘Major Events Management Act’ to protect the ‘Brand’ and the ‘People’ who invest money in the ‘Brand’. But in doing the government forfeited NZer’s ‘Freedom of Speech’ as this is no ordinary game of Rugby.

    Think ‘Sponsors’ ‘Suppliers’ “Licenses’ ‘Exclusive Rights’ there’s Billions at stake and NZ’s reputation is on the line. So to protect everyones interests, apart from us lowly grassroots Kiwi’s, LAWS were created…The Major Events Management Act 2007, or MEMA is Legislation that protects our 2011 Rugby Showcase and honours a government promise to beef up our laws to get the hosting ‘Rights’ in the first place from the IRB.

    MEMA works by introducing ‘Sweeping Prohibitions’ on 5 aspects of ‘Event Management’ and ‘Sponsorship’.

    1You can’t advertise in a way that suggests that you have an association with the ‘Event’.
    2.You can’t ‘Advertise’ or ‘Trade’ in Eden Park and the other 11 stadia hosting matches – They have a clean advertising zones around them dictated by the International Rugby Board.
    3.You can’t use special Rugby insignia or words like ‘Rugby World Cup’ or RWC
    4.You can’t re-sell a ticket for more than the original price
    5.You can’t invade the ‘Pitch’ or ‘Throw things Onto It’

    So according to MEMA, you can’t advertise your PUB like this: On a chalk board outside write anything associated or bearing the words RWC: Drinks Here!
    If I’m offering my house for accommodation on the Internet, I can’t do this: http://www.rugby.world.cup.com While these Guys the likes of TUIS are’nt sponsors but advertising on ‘Personal Clothing’ is Ok, unless it’s worn in coordination with others. These rules do seem a bit ‘Draconian’.

    Strictly speaking, cashing in on a game like this, is ‘BANNED’. Enforcement teams are already fielding non-compliance complaints OR clamping down on ‘BANNED ADVERTISING’.

    If the RWC runs at a ‘LOSS’ guess who has to pick up the ‘TAB’?

    Us lowly, grassroots Kiwis’ who have had our Freedom of Speech RIGHTS Forfeited…This David and Goliath mentality they have well they and their RWC can go and get stuffed…and as for the ‘Unfair Draw’…thats all part of their plan and its to do with MONEY!

    Cheers :)

  2. nickwatanabe says:

    Great post,

    I understood that the MEMA act was put into place to prevent Ambush Marketing you see around events like the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, but I didn’t realize it extended into the secondary ticket market. The fact that you can’t re-sell over face value is ridiculous.

    Of course I recommend the Michigan method. If you buy a pencil from me for $1,000, I’ll give you this free Michigan ticket. ;-)

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