Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Louder for the punters out back - Blues need to shout support for new stadium

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The Blues could also be risking the ire of their landlord, so may have decided it is best to tiptoe towards the CBD at this point. Photo / Getty Images
The Blues could also be risking the ire of their landlord, so may have decided it is best to tiptoe towards the CBD at this point. Photo / Getty Images

Come on rugby, say it with a bit of feeling. A new downtown footy stadium needs you in full voice rather than a whisper.

For starters, the Blues deserve a hearty congratulations for supporting the idea of a new stadium in Auckland's CBD. A statement from chief executive Michael Redman this week was a watershed moment, with the potential to tip the balance. This column isn't often kind to rugby administration, and this is a moment for genuine applause.

But Redman and his board could have gone further. It's time to be bold, audacious, confident.

Yes, Redman's announcement that the waterfront stadium is a "concept of interest" to the Blues was promising, and was accompanied by what I would interpret as criticism of the "game-day experience" Eden Park provides.

The statement was groundbreaking all right, an official snipping of the strings which tie professional rugby to the famous Eden Park. Still, it was snip-snip rather than the necessary deep cut.

Redman has history when it comes to expensive sports projects. He was chief executive of a Hamilton City Council which copped plenty of criticism when the V8 Supercars went into spending overdrive and cost the ratepayers many millions.

Maybe he is gun shy, afraid to have the tyres screeching towards another big-ticket item, although he speaks for the Blues board, so his job is to reflect its position rather than his own.

Whatever the background, the advice to 40 per cent "owner" Murray Bolton, his board and Redman is this: if you want to escape that haunted house in Mt Eden, a statement containing the type of inspiration you would find in the fine print on a parking ticket ain't going to do the trick. Don't spare the horses, people. If Auckland is to get the football stadium it deserves, the project needs clear-headed enthusiasm, devotion and material contributions to get it across the line. Rugby union has to be a big and bold player. This is a moment in history that needs to be grabbed, before more money gets wasted on Eden Park turning it into a default host in perpetuity.

The new stadium naysayers - as is their right - are already splashing cold water on the harbour-edge idea. The massive investment unwisely made on Eden Park for the 2011 Rugby World Cup is a major hurdle. The Warriors are in boots and all, determined, even desperate to find an arena to bring their league club alive. Rather than leading the pro-stadium troops into the firing line this week, the Blues came across as cautious colonels popping their heads up over the trenches to see how many bullets were flying about.

The Rugby Kremlin reveres Temple Eden Park due to its size, status and the winning edge it gives the All Blacks, so any risk to its survival would not be greeted well. The Blues could also be risking the ire of their landlord, so may have decided it is best to tiptoe towards the CBD at this point. But announcing you would "seriously consider any proposal" is close to unwise fence-sitting under these circumstances if the Blues really want to shift.

Rugby misses out

The NRL put on a three-game extravaganza on Easter Monday.

It started with the Warriors-Newcastle match at Mt Smart, which drew an enthusiastic crowd of 14,000. In Melbourne, an AFL crowd of 74,000 watched Geelong and Hawthorn at the MCG on the same day. In the same city, Melbourne City made bunnies out of the Wellington Phoenix in football's A-League.

Rugby, however, gave itself an Easter Monday holiday, missing the chance to score a bumper crowd and compete for publicity. If it was good enough for the other football codes to consider this a prime date, why did rugby give it a miss?

Rugby has complex plans for corporate-style world dominance, while ignoring simple ideas on its home patch.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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