Anendra Singh: Action can't disguise empty feeling

By Anendra Singh

So they have built them with much enthusiasm for last year's World Cup but why on earth aren't they coming to the swanky stadiums around the country?

You can almost hear the echoes of players and a smattering of fans during the ITM Cup rugby matches this winter - oops, spring, that should be.

Is it really because the New Zealand Rugby Union is myopic in the way it has formatted this year's National Provincial Championship?

It seems the NZRU is a victim of its own success.

The second it succumbed to overtures from pay TV moguls, rugby was always going to become an economical football.

Give any nuclear family in this tough economic climate the option of cheaper entertainment and they will gleefully take it with both hands and run.

Why pay more money - tickets, takeaway dinner and drinks to make a night of it at the park - to watch live footy when you can huddle around in the lounge with snuggle rugs to catch it live on TV.

Want a snack? It's only a dinner table and sink bench away in the pantry, courtesy of two bags of potato crispies for $3 from the budget supermarkets.

Okay, so the TV package costs somewhere in the vicinity of $55 a month and goes up to how much disposable income the family have.

Not happy with some dour rugby match then flick channels to the rugby league play-offs or cage fighting or T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka or whatever takes your fancy in the five other sports channels on Sky TV.

Mum and sisters can't stomach sports? Don't stress, multi-room means they can all watch a movie on demand for $10 if the regular re-runs in the four channels are not their cup of tea.

Film theatres - after you budget for takeaways, pop corn and ice-cream - are, arguably, equally hard on the pocket and almost on par with going out to watch a footy match.

Hey, watching stuff on TV is definitely not the real deal. Give me a booming film theatre or a live footy match any day.

Nevertheless, inflating crowd numbers at a sporting venue is so yesteryear.

You simply can't fool the viewing audience into believing 8000 fans are at a game when yawning stadium seats stare right back at you.

Multi-coloured, busy-looking seats may also give a deceptive appearance of patronage but that novelty has worn off.

With commercialism rampant these days, should sporting codes give up the idea of trying to make a profit from numbers coming through the turnstiles?

Provincial netball, soccer and cricket, to name a few, are no strangers to empty venues, either.

Yes, the turnaround time for coaches to prepare ITM Cup rugby teams is short but is it impeding development?

Development should happen from age-group level to senior club level.

The ITM Cup is rebranded domestic competition and good enough a platform for selecting Super Rugby talent.

Frankly, the ITM Cup is a breath of fresh air. It's never been so exciting in the past few decades.

No team is smug about beating another with grinding, yawn-stifling play.

Even the gulf between the cup premiership and championship is pretty narrow. Tasman, Counties Manukau, Otago and Southland's prowess demands two teams be promoted and relegated.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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