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Rugby - Where is it going?

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Post by tigertattie on Mon 21 Sep 2020, 11:15 am

Over on another thread was a very interesting link to some research carried out on sport, its viewership and participation

https://harris-interactive.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2019/10/Sports-Participation-Viewing-and-Fandom-in-the-UK-A-Harris-Interactive-Report.pdf

The bit that really stuck out for me was:
"Rugby Union ranks 6th overall driven by high viewing & fandom among older men. Ranks 4th overall on viewing and 3rd on fandom; participation levels generally much lower –ranks 15th among 18-34 year-olds"

For me that reads that Rugby Union is the 4th most watched sport in the UK, and 3rd most "popular" but alarmingly it's 15th on the list for participation in those of "playing age" for professionals.

What does this mean for the future? Is Rugby well watched because the internationals are mostly on free to air TV? Will moving it to pay per view seriously impact the popularity? Are we getting to a stage where the best athletes are playing other sports? Could we get to a stage where this well watched game becomes less attractive to viewers as the standard of games drops with less and less talented youngsters coming into the game as players?
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Post by Old Man on Mon 21 Sep 2020, 11:21 am

Interestingly rugby is the only real winter sport amongst the top six.

The sample of a 1000 is a bit small, I think depending on the areas in which you do such surveys may differ quite a bit in results.

Maybe people don’t watch sport in winter?

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Mon 21 Sep 2020, 12:17 pm

I'd say yes to a lot of your questions and think you've got it spot on.

Rugby taps in to something that resonates with most of the public - but only internationals. Women who have no real interest in sport enjoy watching rugby MUCH more than football in my experience - not to make a sexist point but I'd say it's the dual attraction of mostly burly (in a good way, sorry front rowers) men in tight fitting kit, and also men physically scrapping with each other which if you've ever been to a boxing match and seen women there you'd know holds a similar kind of attraction. So when it comes to couples or families and friendship groups watching something where only a portion of the group are actually 'fans', and the rest are passive participants happy to play along, then rugby is much more appealing than most sports.

It also has history and tradition. It's undoubtedly the second 'football' ball sport in the UK. Rugby League has its hooks in certain parts of the North. GAA obviously in Ireland. But really it's the obvioius alternative to soccer for its particular kind of football.

So viewing numbers aren't really a problem - although I think putting the Six Nations and RWC behind a paywall would be terminal to that. I think a lot of the rugby watching public are fairweather fans happy to play along for the ride. They don't really care too much about the breakdown law changes or what's happening at club level. They know Farrell and Itoje and a few others - the women definitely know the players they like the look of. It's a good excuse to drink at a time of the year where there's not too much on in the world of sport - another reason why moving the Six Nations could be a disaster.

The issue, clearly, is playing. And in the way that society is becoming more passive and consumerist, rugby is a tough sport to get in to. There's also the issue of levels and finding your standard. Not too many people want to take a battering each weekend from an opposition roided up or pilled up and who come out to break your fingers or take your head off.

There are a few reasons. One is I think a recognition that there is 'more' to do in the world of sport: from cycling, to rock climbing, to yoga...there are all sorts of things that weren't really popular 20 years ago that men might otherwise choose to do, particularly once they reach their 30s and the body starts breaking down. Rugby takes an investment that is much greater than most sports. Your body hurts for days afterwards. It requires technical concentration. There's no small amount of fear going on to the pitch. There are major injuries, sometimes life changing. There's still a big drinking culture at many clubs. If you're a complete beginner, then the rules are mildly confusing as it's not the most intuitive thing to adhere to the offside and the forward pass laws. These things aren't attractive to all men - including those who would want to play the game, not just 'soy boys'.

The other issue is 'access'. Or social connections. We're becoming a far less sociable society and far more wrapped up in our digital 'connections'. That means if people don't have mates who play for a club, or who are moving around for work/not settling down in an area for very long, then they're not putting roots down and doing things like joining the local rugby club. Small towns and villages are dying as people move to the cities which, again, leads to fewer firm social connections. The big trend seems to be trying to get black inner city kids in to rugby in the way soccer has done largely due to the (perceived or real) genetic superiority they have - so there is work going in to this but clearly the social connectivity to rugby is far lower than soccer or even other sports.

Then there's things like Netflix. Perhaps the biggest 'killer' of participation has to be consumerism and passivity I would have thought. Men seem to be turning away from masculine pursuits as well as a more feminised culture takes hold in this country and quite a lot of men seem almost totally repelled from things like rugby on the basis that they prefer a more feminised space.

I suppose the alternative narrative to this is the growth in women's sport. It's being pushed in soccer and in rugby precisely because a 'second' market for the same sport can be created and it can tap in to this consumerism and passive watching of the sport itself - from the men who aren't actually playing the game at a local club. There's clearly a limit to the percentage of women who will play rugby due to sex-based differences and the choices made according to those but the glass ceiling for women's rugby hasn't been met yet and there is clearly 'easy' growth to be made in that area, from grassroots to the pro game.

I think it reflects the modern world. More people are just consumers who work to consume. Athletes will be fast tracked and academies and institutions like private schools where excellence can thrive will be the ones producing the stars of tomorrow. Rugby has a fight on its hands to stop the likes of Christian Wade becoming a common sight: and not because he failed to gain England caps, but rather a physically talented rugby player choosing to leave the sport at 16, 18 etc. because they've been offered a chance in the NFL, or Athletics etc. This is why rugby cannot slow down the growth of payments at the top of the game. However, the UK is becoming more and more some Thatcherite dream where we'll become some kind of service hub in the new Chinese world of consumerism. The actual infrastructure and community game looks nothing like it does in New Zealand, which has to be the model everyone would want to imitate, nor South Africa either with its excellent school system. It seems most people are quite happy with the situation so what can you do? Not a lot I suspect.

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Post by Rugby Fan on Mon 21 Sep 2020, 12:23 pm

Old Man wrote:The sample of a 1000 is a bit small

There may be other problems with the survey but that sample size is fine. This calculator tells you what sample size you need, depending on what margin of error and confidence level you can accept.

http://www.raosoft.com/samplesize.html

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Post by Old Man on Mon 21 Sep 2020, 12:32 pm

I would question that in the sense of demographics. Rugby is not a universal sport loved by all communities.

If you use a sample of 1000 in different communities in SA you would have very inaccurate results. Perhaps not so much in the UK, but still.

Coffee is a universal consumer product, rugby notso much in my view.

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Post by Cyril on Mon 21 Sep 2020, 1:36 pm

Miaow’s comment that women only watch rugby to ogle the players is ignorant and offensive. I know plenty of women who love the sport and are just as knowledgable and passionate as male fans.

Didn’t he get into bother for posting this claptrap before?

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Mon 21 Sep 2020, 2:00 pm

Cyril wrote:women only watch rugby to ogle the players

Unless there's a post that's been deleted I don't think anyone has claimed that.

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Post by Rugby Fan on Mon 21 Sep 2020, 2:54 pm

Old Man wrote:I would question that in the sense of demographics. Rugby is not a universal sport loved by all communities.

If you use a sample of 1000 in different communities in SA you would have very inaccurate results.
Almost everyone who looks at statistical theory for the first time is surprised by how small a sample can be, and still yield a useful result. Seriously, 1,000 is fine. The trick is designing the survey. If the design is flawed, then that won't be solved by a bigger sample: if the design is good, then that sample size will be adequate.

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Post by Old Man on Mon 21 Sep 2020, 4:31 pm

Almost everyone who looks at statistical theory for the first time is surprised by how small a sample can be,

a tad bit condescending , don’t you think?

I am 55 years old, you think I have never looked at statistics before?

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Post by tigertattie on Tue 22 Sep 2020, 3:08 pm

Remember the sample was done in the UK - It's a UK company looking at sport in the UK.

I think the sample size and demographics have been well spread out as you can see that rugby is popular to watch and even be a fan off, but the participation levels in 18-34 year olds is shockingly low when you look at the numbers watching it.

It's not like rugby is difficult to get into. You rock up with a mouthguard and a pair of boots. You dont need to buy a horse or a racing car, you dont need to buy NFL padding, swords for fencing, etc.

There seems to be a real factor thats putting young adults off playing the game and this could be an impact years down the line when I'm an old man wanting to sit in the pub and watch a game but there's no "youngsters" coming through to play the sport!
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