Rugby has always been a popular sport but things changed in 2003, the moment 'that kick' went over and we all saw that iconic moment of Martin Johnson raising the Webb Ellis cup above his head, the sports popularity stepped up a whole new level! Suddenly children had new heroes and wanted to emulate the World Cup winning stars. Just one little issue with aiding the popularity of the sport........media coverage.
Almost 10 years down the line has the coverage of rugby catapulted into the lime light.....easy answer no! With BT taking on the mantle for the premiership next season we are now left waiting how accessible will it be to us and how much will we now have to pay for the privilege of watching the team we love? To watch most things oval ball related you need a Sky TV and ESPN subscription at the moment, but with that you get internationals, Premiership, Sevens and even down under for the Super 15. Terrestrial viewing allows us World Cup, RBS Six Nations and highlight shows and they are few and far between, so to watch some rugby on TV it's a hard task to do.
ITV's highlights show is one hour of tv a week covering either Aviva Premiership, Heineken cup, Amlin cup or the LV=Cup, but their footage is dictated by either Sky or ESPN. If a fixture is not screened live there are only a handful of cameras there for highlight purposes so as with Bath's latest fixture against Gloucester the highlights lasted only 30 seconds even though Bath were fighting for a LV=Cup semi-final, where as the Scarlets v Tigers game was given the full highlight treatment even though the match had no importance. What added more insult to the avid rugby fan was that the show due to be screened on ITV4 at 9o'clock Sunday evening, as the African cup of Nations ran over the show was dropped back an hour. So one of our only rugbying shows for which we look forward to was relegated because of a game of football between two foreign countries, that realistically has no relevance to the British public?
It is not only ITV that decide to neglect the rugby world, the BBC are having a good go at this as well. Leading up to the RBS Six Nations the BBC morning news handed the delightful news that Alice Cooper was taking part in a golf tournament but omitted to inform on any Six Nations news even though the tournament was but two days away. The BBC do draught in some good pundits for their Six Nations coverage and its almost hard to fault their live coverage, the problems arise with their highlight scheduling. The timing of the highlight shows were extremely intriguing and certainly not there to encourage youngsters to take them in. If you wished to watch Highlights of Wales v Ireland and England v Scotland you couldn't watch one of the most exciting fixtures of the weekend Italy v France, BBC One had live coverage and BBC Two showed the highlights. There luckily was a further highlight show 1.45 am on BBC One after celebrity American apprentice while the four hour extravaganza of the American supper bowl was on BBC Two. Fear not BBC decided to allow us one more bite of the cherry playing out the highlight show once again BBC Two at 1.30pm when children are at school, well done BBC for bringing it to the masses and allowing children to enjoy rugby of the highest calibre.
I am fully aware of recording devises or finding the programmes on the Internet but why should we have to, why are the rugby spectating public being shunned by the British media? With more encouraged viewing of a ever increasing popularity sport it will help bring even more spectators encouraging more to go to live matches and bringing more revenue to the clubs. Do we aspire for our children to watch footballers behaviour demonstrating a lack of respect to officials and opposing teams or do wish to see them learn the discipline that is installed in rugby? I know which way I lean towards.
Rugby is an exciting sport followed by many yet football is predominantly the larger sport in this country. As a rugby fan that confuses me as in rugby England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are far more superior forces than they are in football so is it not time that the media got behind the sport encourage its growth in popularity, finally support something that in our own nations we are actually good at.