Loose Pass

Date published: August 15 2017

This week we will be mostly concerning ourselves with the demise of Western Force, women's rugby and brazen marketing.

Gender gaps

There's no denying that women's rugby is on the up and up. Dip into Rugby World Cup 2017, currently playing out in Dublin and Belfast, and just marvel at some of the skills on display. 

Sure, we've been forced to witness a number of painfully one-sided results, but the pool stages are now set for a tantalising climax with six unbeaten sides vying for the semi-final berths.

And yet something just doesn't sit right about this tournament. 

We can't quite put our finger on it, but the problem probably lies somewhere in the gap between World Rugby's marketing spiel and the goods on the table. 

Press releases detailing "sell-outs" clog up our mail servers, and we receive constant reminders that, for example, the "Women’s Rugby World Cup continues to go from strength to strength, proving a hit with fans, broadcasters and sponsors around the globe, with its compelling, competitive action and global profile".

But own eyes – as we survey the tiny venues peppered with empty seats and meek advertising displays – tell us that this is all a bit of a leap.

Truth be told, the whole thing feels like an expensive afterthought. 

Before you attack, let us explain. 

We vehemently stick to our belief that the women's rugby is on the up and up. But we're referring to participation rather than its value as a 'product'.

With huge swathes of the men's game struggling to achieve economic sustainability (more of that later), it seems slightly ludicrous to suggest that the women's game can stand alone – and it's almost cruel to expect that to happen in the sporting wastelands of August.

If World Rugby is serious about growing the women's 15-a-side game as it is about Sevens, it need to tie it to the men's 15-a-side game – or, rather, it needs to start to talk about rugby as a single game.

Has truth be told, our game captures the globe's attention only once every four years. If there's really a desire to inspire girls to pick up the game and run with it, both Rugby World Cups must be played in tandem – the lengthy gaps in the men's tournament are simply crying out for it.

Dearth in Perth

We need to talk about the Western Force. We'd really rather not, of course, as the whole sorry saga makes us come out in an angry rash. 

Former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer has described the decision to disband the franchise as a "catastrophe" and the biggest fiasco he has seen in the game.

It's hard to argue with the man – and you really wouldn't want to. Trust us: been there, done it.

Jokes aside, how does one go about explaining this nightmare to a rugby-mad child in Western Australia? One of the remotest areas in world rugby will (cripplingly expensive lawsuit pending) now have no direct link to top-tier rugby, save the occasional Test. And the internationals will also probably dry up if the rumoured boycott of the forthcoming clash with the Boks gains traction. 

That said, what other option is there but to shut up shop? This column has long advocated the notion of relegation for under-achievers and the need for proper foundations under new constructions, so we'd be rightly called out if we chained ourselves to the bulldozers at this juncture. 

But we do believe this is the wrong move, not least because the Melbourne Rebels survive – an even younger monster also created by Frankenstein, with an equally rubbish record and an even poorer average attendance, operating in a city which rugby union will never conquer. They are the true black swans of the story, not the Force. 

For us it comes down to sheer administrative incompetence. A country of Australia's might and size should surely be able to operate five successful franchises.

Perhaps the fairest solution is to put the Force on notice – the Rebels too – and see how these changes at the top of the ARU pan out. 

Things can only get better from here, right?

Lion hunting

Here's a project we'd like your help with. Let's give it the working title of 'shamesourcing' (patent pending).

With Premiership Rugby manoeuvring for more space in the rugby calendar and calling for future British & Irish Lions to be shortened to six weeks, we're eager to out those clubs seeking to market their own tourists ahead of the new season. 

You know the sort of guff we're after: posters and email urging you to "come and see our Lions feed/hunt/prowl in their natural environment". 

It's not that we want to embarrass them, of course – that's just a happy side effect. We really just want to point out a fact that they patently know to be true: Lions tours make their turnstiles spin, not stall.

Loose Pass is compiled by former Planet Rugby editor Andy Jackson

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