Login Dark

The Guardian view on the Rugby World Cup: a showcase for free televised sport - The Guardian

Author: The Guardian

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/oct/27/the-guardian-view-on-the-rugby-world-cup-a-showcase-for-free-televised-sport

Image of The Guardian view on the Rugby World Cup: a showcase for free televised sport - The Guardian

It is difficult for sports other than football to run compelling World Cups because not enough countries play the game to make it truly global – or not to the required standard anyway.Even the rugby union World Cup, which has on the whole been a success and concludes on Saturday with a heavyweight final between New Zealand and current champions South Africa, has had problems making every match count.There have been classic encounters – the quarter-finals between France and South Africa and Ireland and New Zealand will live long in the memory – but also pointless (literally for some teams) drubbings.France 96 Namibia 0; Scotland 84 Romania 0; England 71 Chile 0.Such matches offer little to players or spectators, and merely emphasise the gulf between rugby-playing nations. Even Italy, a “tier one” rugby-playing country, were hammered 96-17 by New Zealand.That said, there has been much to savour, and, despite carping in some quarters about the quality of the TV coverage, ITV and, in Wales, S4C have done a largely excellent job of showcasing the event for the domestic audience.There are suggestions that from 2027 the Rugby World Cup may not be shown free to air in the UK.That would be a disaster for rugby fans, but also for the sport itself.The Faustian trade-off between short-term cash from lucrative TV broadcasting deals and the long-term profile that mass exposure on free‑to-air TV gives to a sport is a dangerous one.Witness cricket, which long ago sold its soul to the pay TV giants.In the UK, Sky Sports has a monopoly of live coverage of the Cricket World Cup currently under way in India, though Channel 5 is showing a daily highlights package and will show the final on 19 November live. The result is a distinctly underwhelming public response to the event, not helped by England’s wretched performance.They won the previous 50-over World Cup, which they hosted in 2019, in dramatic style, but have demonstrated none of that flair or fight this time round and are already almost certain to be eliminated.Sunday’s encounter with favourites India offers a last desperate shot at redemption, a chance to salvage their pride if not their place in the competition.Whereas the Rugby World Cup has shown an embattled sport trying to reshape itself for the future, the Cricket World Cup has only posed a series of questions to which its administrators currently have no answers.Organisation of the latter event has been shambolic; the 10-team all‑play-all structure makes for a long-drawn-out competition that will inevitably produce too many meaningless matches in which neither team can qualify for the final four; and there remain doubts about whether the 50-over format has a future.Perhaps, some say, cricket should just go short or long – a mixture of Twenty20 and four- or five-day cricket – and drop the intermediate one-day form.Rugby is building on its World Cup success, this week announcing a restructuring of the global game designed in part to produce bigger, more competitive World Cups in the future. Meanwhile, cricket lurches from crisis to crisis, dominated by the agendas of the “big three” – India, England and Australia – and failing to see the wider picture in terms of protecting Test cricket and growing the sport internationally.If you can’t even define what the game is – 20-over, 50-over or long-form – you have a problem.

Subscribe To Our NewsLetter