Oval Talk

Boycott threat: Justified or just bullying?

Oval Talk

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Imagine this scenario: It's four years
from now and England have just won the World Cup final at Twickenham.

What would happen though if you
knew that New Zealand hadn't competed? Or Australia?

What happens if the New Zealand
Rugby Union go through with their threat to boycott the 2015 World Cup in
England?

Does it devaluate the event? That's
what the NZRU chief executive Steve Tew is hoping the IRB will think.

It seems a little hasty to be
looking ahead to the next World Cup before this one is even into the knockout
stages but that is what is happening after Tew issued the threat.

Of course just because New
Zealand may not compete doesn't mean that there are plenty of teams who could
win. England are, in fact, the only northern hemisphere team to lift the Webb
Ellis trophy.

Realistically Ireland, France
and Wales are more than capable of winning and, while Scotland and Italy would clearly
be considered be outsiders, we have seen enough in recent years to know they
can make lives tough for almost any team. Who's to say they couldn't suddenly
have a cracking run of form.

And what about South Africa? Or the
Tri-Nations bound Argentina? Assuming, of course, they don't get behind the
boycott as well.

Some have accused the NZRU of
using bullying tactics; former England hooker Brian Moore has expressed his
disgust at what he calls NZRU's "explicit blackmail" quite clear.

The NZRU do "greedy deals
with sponsors ... deals which lessen the value of RWC's commercial rights from
which they are funded," Moore wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

"They want what is best for
world rugby? Excuse us whilst we vomit."

Australia Rugby Union boss John
O'Neill has now backed Tew as well, which adds more weight to the threat, but
it is still being greeted with ridicule.

"It must also be said that you
(New Zealand) will not be missed half as much as you would like to think,"
Stephen Jones has said in the Times.

"There was a great fuss made in
1987 and 1991 World Cups because South Africa were not in them - not a proper
World Cup, whole thing devalued, and so on. Yet the only people who said those
things were South Africans. The rest of the world got on and partied."

Tew reckons that the NZRU loses
NZ$13 million in a World Cup year due to not being able to carry out duties
with their sponsors, for example the All Blacks are sponsored by Steinlager but
the World Cup is sponsored by Heineken meaning Steinlager has to take a back
seat.

The IRB, for their part, have
simply tried to sweep the issue aside for the time-being. They have responded by
saying that a review on the financial and sponsorship issues of the game is due
after the current World Cup, as was announced back in May.

Are we really to believe that
one of the biggest rugby nations in the world is in so much financial trouble
that they need to boycott the tournament?

If that truly is the case surely
a review into how the sport is run is needed, not just a look at how a World Cup
year functions?

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