Dear John (ARU MD & CEO),I never thought I’d be writing this. Our relationship has survived many highs and many, many lows unscathed over many years but you’ve finally broken my heart (and wallet) and frankly, I don’t think you care.
I’m not ashamed to say that for me and Australian Rugby it was love at first sight. Watching The Wallabies defeat the greatest sides in the world time and time again and all on a budget that made the smell of an oily rag seem like Channel No 5 inspired me. Somehow, time and time again you managed to find great players from the small population that played Rugby Union…all of whom stood proud in the Green and Gold, ignoring the riches of Rugby League or other sports in favour of the game they play in heaven. Rugby was a sport for the people that business supported, sadly, it seems that almost overnight, you’ve become a business for people who aren’t good sports.
In recent years I’ve watched from the stands as just about every sound and every sight is sold to the highest bidding sponsors. I’ve been stunned as the sponsors and fans who loyally supported Queensland Reds through their many lean years are told they have been surpassed by higher bidders in the very week the Reds finally win a Grand Final. Within days of this years final whistle, I’m called by the Reds membership department insisting I make my mind up on keeping the 5 family gold membership seats we’ve had for years as they’re now Platinum and if we don’t want to pay $3,000 for them (as opposed to $600 this year) there are plenty who will.
OK, so I appreciate this is a commercial world and you need the money to be able to pay top performing players. Whilst our $600 probably represents a bigger contribution to rugby than corporates provide (as a percentage of our respective discretionary spending) who wouldn’t take $3000 rather than $600 to increase performance? The Rugby I fell in love with that’s who!
Now don’t get me wrong, I work for myself and appreciate the commercial realities of this world we sadly now find ourselves living in. I know that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys and I’ve always been happy to invest where one gets a good return, but that’s just it…if the rabid commercialisation of Rugby Union was achieving better results and providing a better experience for the fans I wouldn’t be writing this letter, but they don’t seem to be do they. We (the Fans) are barraged by advertisers trying to get our families to gamble whilst the odds on our rugby teams actually wining seem to be plummeting.
Yes the ARU are far wealthier, yes the players are far far richer and more pampered than they have ever been…but where are the results? Last Saturday’s display by The Wallabies against the All Blacks in Sydney was nothing short of farcical and frankly with the exception of the Brumbies this year, and the Reds end of season revival, Australia didn’t look very Super at all…and don’t mention the last World Cup.
But I shouldn’t fear, in order to ensure a great performance against the Lions next year you’re going to ask us to invest on average $200-$300 per ticket for the Tests. Yes, this may be more than World Cup final tickets, but look what happened to the Wallabies on Saturday when you only charged an average of $150 per ticket to see them play the All Blacks at home. Clearly, the boys need motivating and whilst the Green and Gold shirts don’t seem to do it any more, having more of the Green notes in their bank surely will….after all, they can’t get sponsors to give them everything and those fancy haircuts aren’t cheap!
Now to be fair, you don’t seem to be the only sport going down this path. Rugby League was founded on such principals and leads the way in commercialisation…but I guess at least they can still beat the other two countries that play their game. Our Olympic Team is getting better at the commercial game, but I don’t think they’re there yet. Far more public money needs to be spent on them to ensure those pesky foreign swimmers don’t get better than us without letting our poor athletes know they might need to get close to their personal bests to win a Gold Medal.
Anyway, sorry I appreciate this letter isn’t positive enough for our young sportsmen and women to read. I don’t want them thinking that they’re accountable for providing a return on our investment in them. None of us have had to work as hard as them to get to where we are today and to have what they are apparently entitled to. Earning the type of money in ten years that most of us take 50 to is their right..after all, what can you do when you’re forced to retired in your thirties?
Anyway, I think I’m going to invest my $600 on The Arts sector next year. Oh I know I run the risk of my kids forgetting how to put a bet on and some of those actors, singers and artists have been known to demonstrate some less than savory behaviours, but at least I’ll know that the performers are giving it their all and they (most likely) won’t suddenly put the price of admission up 400% after they win an award.
In the meantime, thanks for the wonderful memories – which I trust will be all I keep in time. Hopefully, once my heart heals we’ll be able to meet each other again. Until then, may your sponsors always have more money and your Corporates turn up to fill the seats at games week after week.