The Editorial’s Perspective on the Rugby World Cup: An Opportunity to Display Free TV Sports
It is a challenge for other sports besides football to host successful World Cups due to the lack of participation and skill in the game on a global scale. Despite the overall success of the rugby union World Cup, which will end this Saturday with a highly anticipated final between New Zealand and reigning champions South Africa, there have been difficulties in ensuring every match is competitive. While some matches, such as France vs South Africa and Ireland vs New Zealand in the quarter-finals, have been exciting, others have been one-sided and unimportant for certain teams. Examples of these lopsided matches include France defeating Namibia 96-0, Scotland beating Romania 84-0, and England triumphing over Chile 71-0. These types of games offer little value for players and spectators and highlight the vast difference in skill between nations who play rugby. Even Italy, a top-tier rugby-playing nation, suffered a crushing 96-17 loss to New Zealand.
However, there have been many enjoyable moments, and although some have criticized the TV coverage, both ITV and S4C have done a mostly outstanding job of highlighting the event for viewers in the UK. It has been suggested that starting in 2027, the Rugby World Cup may no longer be available on free-to-air channels in the UK. This would be detrimental not only to rugby fans, but also to the sport as a whole. The risky decision to prioritize immediate financial gain from expensive TV broadcasting contracts over the long-term visibility that widespread access on free channels provides is concerning.
Cricket, a sport that has sacrificed its integrity for the sake of profits from television networks. In the United Kingdom, Sky Sports has exclusive rights to broadcast live coverage of the ongoing Cricket World Cup in India. While Channel 5 offers a daily highlights package and will air the final live on November 19, the lack of accessibility has resulted in a lackluster public reception to the event. The poor performance of the English team has only added to the disappointment. Despite winning the previous 50-over World Cup in 2019, which they hosted, with an exciting finish, they have failed to show any of that same brilliance this time and are likely to be knocked out of the competition. Their upcoming match against favored India on Sunday is their last chance for redemption, providing an opportunity to restore their pride if not their spot in the tournament.
The Rugby World Cup has demonstrated a struggling sport attempting to revamp itself for the future. However, the Cricket World Cup has raised numerous concerns that its administrators are currently unable to answer. The organization of the tournament has been chaotic, with a 10-team all-play-all format resulting in a lengthy competition and many unimportant matches where neither team can advance to the final four. There are also uncertainties surrounding the future of the 50-over format. Some suggest that cricket should either stick to shorter or longer formats, such as a combination of Twenty20 and four or five-day matches, and eliminate the intermediate one-day format.
Rugby is building on its World Cup success, this week announcing a restructuring of the global game designed in part to produce bigger, more competitive World Cups in the future. Meanwhile, cricket lurches from crisis to crisis, dominated by the agendas of the “big three” – India, England and Australia – and failing to see the wider picture in terms of protecting Test cricket and growing the sport internationally. If you can’t even define what the game is – 20-over, 50-over or long-form – you have a problem.