Rugby Australia is killing Australian rugby

As US cable sports giant ESPN learned the hard way, “get woke, go broke” is more than a meme: it’s a harsh, dollars-and-cents reality. Corporate sports and entertainment giants indulge far-left, “progressive” fantasies at their peril. As ESPN eschewed sports commentary for “woke” political agitation, in tune with the Trump-derangement of the rest of the legacy media, millions of subscribers walked. Similarly, as the “take a knee” controversy engulfed American football, crowd numbers plunged.

Rugby Australia has learned nothing from these debacles.

As the Israel Folau fiasco threatens to engulf and potentially sink Australian rugby, the rugby family is losing patience while the game’s administration is losing any semblance of support.

Just as in the recent federal election, what Scott Morrison called the “quiet Australians” had only one avenue of protest against Bill Shorten and that was at the ballot box, so the rugby supporter has manifested his/her concern (and there are as many women in revolt as men) by refusing to make the turnstiles turn.

The anger over RA’s treatment of Folau is palpable. Even many people who don’t at all agree with his views are nonetheless outraged that simply quoting the Bible on your own time could be a sackable offense. Opinion polling shows that Australians solidly support freedom of belief, and religious freedom is believed to have played a significant role in the Coalition’s election victory.

The Waratahs’ support is usually around 15,000, regardless of where they play. Since the Folau issue, that has dipped to 10,000 if you are lucky.

It is so much of a concern that last Saturday, the Waratahs asked for the King’s School v Waverley College 1st XV trial game to be a curtain-raiser to mask the drop in crowd numbers.

Schoolboy rugby draws big crowds…

The Brumbies have slipped from around 8000 per match to 6000 — a 25 per cent drop. Make no mistake, the rugby family have had a gutful.

There were probably more supporters at the Scots College v St Joseph’s trial match last Saturday than there were at the Brumbies v Bulls Super Rugby match.

[…] To put this in perspective, last year’s final State of Origin rugby league match had around 11 million viewers…This is what is possible when a game is well administered and well run.

The Folau controversy is only part of a broader problem of mismanagement at RA, especially under Raelene Castle. AFL management are often just as “woke”, but have so far managed to avoid pissing off their fans too much, with the possible exception of the Adam Goodes controversy in 2017. On the other hand, when The Footy Show AFL edition went full SJW this year, it tanked and died with astonishing rapidity.

The AFL might do well to watch what is happening to rugby.

When are we going to face the reality, post-Folau, that, due to the mismanagement of our game by the board and the executive, we could be bankrupt in 12 months.

It seems that only the rugby family understands this.

Among the thousands of comments to my recent articles, Dean says: “This is a disgraceful episode. RA have lost the plot. More interested in PC and sponsors than fans and long-term supporters…I am convinced the game is doomed in this country. I’ve turned it off and am now following the NRL. Sad times.”

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