Simple answer – switch to supporting our national game!
If Wayne Rooney had been born in Eire he’d have been the Irish #10 , competing with Dave Sexton, because that’s what the finest sportsmen in Ireland and NewZealand and South Africa aspire to be.
Australia’s funny, as it’s good at everything, but England is undoubtedly a footballing nation with a penchant for public school sports like cricket and rugby.
The English Rugby Football Union (notice the land grab) decided 20 years ago to colonise the mass affluent whose children were playing mini-rugby in the clubs (even if they weren’t going to posh schools). Just about everything that moved got jumped on as a sponsorship opportunity. I remember Zurich being offered the opportunity to make the RFU money by setting up an RFU stakeholder pension for club players and supporters who wanted to link their retirements to the RFU’s brand “voltage”.
Then came fortress Twickenham, that was transformed from a ramshackle collection of ill-designed stands into the clinical stadium of today. Throw in an anthem stolen from the slaves who would have been owned by the ancestors of the current England supporters club and you have a compelling narrative for generation of would be Johnny Wilkinsons.
In all this marketing frenzy, the joy of the game seems to have been left behind. The hugely inflated prices for tickets for this world cup are designed to keep the cup exclusive to the right kind of customers- customers who buy the land rovers and other up-market brands that the RFU’s brand can now “leverage”.
The joy of the game was very evident on Saturday and Sunday night, when the Welsh and Irish fans got behind their teams. By contrast, England fans were left to throw paper darts and go Mexican waves as their team exited the World Cup in an exhibition match at the Etihad.
Whether team England, (or whatever stupid name we give the poor sods who have to go through the post-Woodward wringer), will undoubtedly begin the long road to the next world cup this morning and hope will spring eternal.
Whether they do what the TCCB has done and give the game back to the players is open to doubt. The brand damage that might be created by allowing a Cipriani to express himself is too much of a risk. Instead we have Owen Farrell, the face of corporate responsibility, a low-risk kicker with about as much flair as a mod’s drainpipes.
And the next generation of Rooneys, and Kanes and Harts will not aspire to be England Rugby players as they would had they been Irish or Welsh because our national game is football, which is written deep into the DNA of the nation.
The colonisation of the mass affluent is fine, as long as it has foundations in the values of the sport and is based on people playing 15 v 15 (ok 23 v23) on a rectangular field for the joy of winning. But the England rugby fans have nowhere to go because their brand aspirations are tied up with supremacy.
The whole RFU, Twickenham, high-voltage brand is based on us winning, which we won’t do; as our best players play with a round ball or in Rugby League (out of choice). Try turning Sam Burgess into a union star and you see just how different the codes are (Jason Robinson was a one-off).
The RFU so want another bunch of Martin Bayfields that they wring all the spirit out of the talent pool, banish the flair to the bench or beyond and persist with players who stack up on a laptop but flop on the pitch.
Meanwhile, the impoverished fans will watch the rest of the world cup with envy, not just for the supporters of other countries who are able to get on with enjoying themselves (without marketing tyranny) but because they will be watching teams that express themselves out of the joy of the game.
Rugby is alive and kicking in England, but the closer it gets to Twickenham and the RFU, the less it is allowed to play. Meanwhile it should be noted that the best game of rugby in this country over the weekend was won by Leeds and the most successful football team in the Euro-qualifiers was…..