We fans of the game are in no doubt that there’s scarcely anything so compelling as a full-on rugby match between two top sides.
Although that statement is intended neither a contribution to an ongoing Rust debate as to which sport is most exciting, nor indeed one on the topic of which ‘sports’ are deserving of the term and/or which are not, it does come with a tinge of conceit that those pastimes in which physical contact and sheer athletic effort – together perhaps with team work, esprit de corps and collective effort with others – make for more ‘involving’ spectacles than those which don’t depend upon these attributes.
Here I’m going to come out of the woods with my hands up and state for the record that for me personally (as a punter) activities such as archery, clay pigeon shooting, darts, chess-playing, ice skating, climbing, diving and synchronised swimming have never floated my boat.
Granted, they’re all activities that clearly require great skill or art and, of course, endless hours of practice to perform to elite standard but they’re not (in my view) capable of ‘involving’ the spectator in a similar manner as, for example, a rugby, cricket or soccer game can.
The way I see it, if things were different, you’d be hard pressed to deny top musicians and/or orchestras the right to appear at the Olympics (different events for full symphonies, quartets, movements lasting under five minutes long, anyone?); or classical dancers strutting their stuff, or opera singers belting out a series of iconic arias.
And why not, perhaps, a gold medal for ‘best ensemble production of Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest by each nation’s actors, for example?
It would never end.
But by then they wouldn’t be my types of ‘sport’. In advance of any sporting event I crave that inner sense of naked anticipation and excitement at the prospect of watching a ‘contest’, not a competition.
But I digress.
My sport of obsession, rugby union, has many troubling issues facing its administrators and organisers, running the whole spectrum from player welfare, player development, the dangerous influence of varying and irreconcilable commercial interests right through to the problems of long-term injuries, concussion and the constant pressure to tinker with the laws of the game in order to make it more attractive to both the playing and watching public.
I’m not going to discuss any of these today.
However, I thought I would provide Rust readers with a link to an article I spotted upon the topic of how rugby in England (one of the biggest rugby nations in terms of population and tradition) might organise itself immediately below elite club and international level.
It touches upon the issue of how a sport that is popular – though not yet to the extent of a truly global dominator like soccer – seeks to comes to terms with the fact that its current crowd sizes and commercial realities do not really support the infrastructure, sporting science and all the other aspects of the modern elite game that the powers-that-be have already eagerly adopted. And perhaps may never do so.
See here for a piece by Robert Kitson addressing a related, more human, aspect of the problem that appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN