Source: Harlequins

PWR – The Case for the Prosecution

  • +1

An Inquiry

Here is a digest of evidence provided.

In her interview on TNT before Big Match 15 at Twickenham PWR’s CEO, Belinda Moore, painted
a rosy picture of the league and women’s rugby in general.  Here is an alternative view.

1. Professionalism

Where is the money to come from? There is little or none in the men’s game. in England and Wales clubs are fighting for survival or folding. Gates are nowhere near large enough to pay for the players’ contracts. In the women’s game contracts are far more modest and many remain amateur or at best semi-pro.

Mrs Moore assured us that attendances are rising – fortunately for her there were 16,000 gathering around her as she speaks. But where is her proof? No official figures are available yet, and several of the nine clubs might contest her statement.

Contrast the 16,000 for a double-header at Twickenham with gates at most other clubs; How many Loughborough students who used to watch Lightning at Epinal Way for free now travel to Northampton and pay to get in? Why should loyal Saints fans transfer their support to a different club wearing different colours?

Clubs are putting a big effort into attracting larger crowds, but the absence of any precise stats suggests that authorities are unwilling to publicise the figures.

2. Funding

Since the start of the Premier 15s fourteen clubs have found representation: Bristol Bears, DMP Sharks, Exeter Chiefs, Gloucester-Hartpury, Quins, Leicester Tigers, Loughborough Lightning, Richmond, Sale Sharks, Saracens, Trailfinders, Wasps, Firwood Waterloo and Worcester Warriors (Valkyries).

Of those no fewer than five have been ousted; that is a huge proportion. And there is no competitive second division for them to move to, thus offering a route back into the big time. In other words, no promotion and relegation. This again mirrors the men’s game where Championship clubs have fought a long campaign for justice, without any success yet.

Is it sensible for the game to be dependent on large companies, whose interest may not be entirely altruistic, or rich benefactors?

3. An even Spread

Warriors’ sudden withdrawal painted the picture in its starkest colours. We are left with nine clubs. Many players from those rejected clubs have found a new life in the PWR, but not all. We can argue that the reduction to nine competitiors only raises the level of competition, but there is no guarantee that some of them won’t feel a chill blast soon.

No-one has yet found an answer to balancing up the strengths of the participants. Two clubs, Gloucester-Hartpury and Saracens, regularly turn out a team full of Red Roses, with non-England qualified test players (NEQPs) making up the rest of the squad. ‘Play the best to be the best’ is a well-worn saw, but it doesn’t answer the problem of too few matches involving an uncertain outcome.

Giant-beating comes very rarely. Sarries have struggled to reach double-figure losses over the last seven seasons! That is a dominance similar to Bayern München in the German Bundesliga, and equally unwelcome.

4. Media Coverage

This can take many forms, but the ideal is live free-to-air TV coverage. An agreement with TNT to show one match per week was greeted as a great breakthrough, the first time a game could be seen live. But how large has TNT’s viewership been? Hard to find details.

At the same time live stream coverage has reduced markedly. The two clubs to offer their home games are precisely the two who are finanically able to do so, Quins and Sarries (both in London!) and when TNT comes calling, no live stream, of course. And on what principles does TNT choose which game to show? Fair shares for all?

Ideally we would like to see the BBC cover games the way it has done for the Six Nations, but it simply doesn’t have the funding to do so.  I’ll leave you to wonder why that is.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *