Working class lawyer Micky Savage writes at The Standard:
Back then Rugby was king in New Zealand. All Blacks were deities and were instantly recognisable. Test matches were waited with anticipation for weeks in advance. The whole country used to shut down while test matches were being played. And provincial and club rugby was watched by huge numbers.
Now things are different. More kids play soccer than Rugby. The game is highly professionalised and commercialised and the All Blacks suck huge resources out of the game.
They suck resources? I’d suggest it is the money the All Blacks and Super teams make that allows the NZRFU to fund other levels of the game. But I’m sure Mr Savage knows best.
Club rugby, once the backbone of the game, is now nothing more than a talent spotting opportunity. Provincial rugby is nothing more than Sky TV filler. And All Black games can only be seen if you have large amounts of money to buy a ticket or can afford a Sky TV subscription. Watching the All Blacks is no longer a working class pursuit and is more entertainment for the wealthy.
Thanks to ACT and other like minded MPs, working class fans of the All Blacks can watch the games at their local pubs.
Things have also changed for National. Instead of keeping politics out of sport they are now happy to politicise the All Blacks on every possible occasion. Yesterday’s announcement of the All Black team for this year’s world cup is a classic example. Parliament was opened up at the request of the Rugby Union. Ministers were there en masse seeking every opportunity to take selfies with All Blacks. And John Key was obviously in his element.
Mr Savage overlooks that Labour MPs were there also, and in fact Andrew Little was invited to speak.
John Key’s treatment of the All Blacks is as cynical and calculating as Rob Muldoon’s treatment of the All Blacks in 1981.
Yes turning up to rugby games and events is much the same as the Springbok Tour.
And we live in a nation where urgent legislation can be passed so that at 5 am in the morning people can drink beer in pubs while watching rugby. And pubs could be open continuously for 69 hours.
A law backed by all but six Labour MPs. And good on them for doing so.