Former England star James Haskell has heavily criticised rugby’s ‘diabolical’ and out of date coverage in a four-minute online rant.
The backrow turned MMA fighter hopes the sport can take an opportunity to re-evaluate how it presents its ‘product’ with the current suspension of the all professional rugby the world over due to the coronavirus.
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Haskell was speaking on The House of Rugby Podcast with Alex Payne and fellow ex-England player Mike Tindall.
“My concerns with rugby and the professional game are that people involved in rugby think rugby is everything and that everyone cares about rugby,” said Haskell. “They think everyone knows about it and they just don’t.”
“Outside in the real world you suddenly realise if you ever get out of that bubble that people don’t care and that it’s a third or fourth tier sport. It’s never going to compete with football.
“It’s not even in the same league, competition. If football is at the top of the ladder, then rugby can’t even see the bottom rung.
“So I think the whole game has to be centred around being accessible, and I think the TV commentary stuff, it’s just diabolical, boring.
“Nobody watches BT Sport. I don’t know how many viewers they get for that Rugby Tonight or whatever. No disrespect to them. It’s (Rugby Tonight) has got an amazing plethora of reporters and skillful people, legends of the game, but nobody watches BT Sport.
“Unless they do it because they are going to watch the Premiership. How many tune in to Rugby Tonight? I don’t know.
“I watched the coverage of the Six Nations. There are boys who are still involved who are great at what they did. It’s just there’s a younger generation with a short attention span – you need to be punchy and interesting.
“You have to be competitive in a competitive marketplace. You have to create a product that is fun to watch, easily understandable, [have] education around it, you need to do more at club rugby, get kids to play it at schools. You have to be ruthless.
“More teams doesn’t necessarily make for better rugby, a better product. Having played in all those leagues, I think stadiums and teams could do so much better match day experiences, to encourage people to come in to fill stadiums and create atmospheres, and create days out. That’s what people want.
“What thing about rugby over every other sport was the accessibility that the fans had to the players. You go to a Premiership football match and you’re lucky to get spat on by a Premiership player.
“You go to a rugby game and there are opportunities to meet players, [get] autographs signed, have that interaction. It’s important so that fans can feel part of the journey.
“You never want to lose any teams but I think this is an opportunity for the world at large to look at the way we travel, look at the way we treat people, look at our healthcare, our general hygiene, and team sport, look how we set teams up. Look how we do the business models and see if we can do something better this time round.
Hopefully not. https://t.co/0VksGrVlWk
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 29, 2020
“Instead of tinkering around with silly rules, it should try and deliver a product and it should try not to be so paranoid about the content they put out and the creation. Other sports are doing it better than rugby.
“When you tune in to an international game, you want someone engaging, someone upbeat, someone informed.
“You don’t want dreary old nonsense. Sorry to say but that’s what my experience of watching the last few years has been.
“They’re never going to sign me up as I’m too controversial, so that doesn’t bother me.
— mike tindall (@miketindall13) March 28, 2020
“For example, I thought Dylan Hartley on the BBC when he came on against France was fantastic. Current, informed, interesting, opinionated, countered, knew exactly what was going on in the mental mindset.
“Anyone who hasn’t been around a changing room for the last five years, you’re just watching like everyone else.”
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