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That’s Not Cricket!

There’s an old expression which is probably fairly well known in the parts of the world which still have a connection with the old British Empire. That is “that’s not cricket!” and it means that something is not fair or not being done according to established rules.

Perhaps a more topical variation on the theme would be “that’s not rugby” to describe the situation around the Rugby World Cup which is about to start here in New Zealand.

I like watching a good game of rugby as much as anyone else (well that’s probably not literally true because I’m sure there are real rugby fanatics who enjoy it far more than me) but I’ve got to say I’m already sick of the nonsense which is emerging around the RWC and the actual competition hasn’t even started yet!

So what sort of “nonsense” am I talking about? It’s mostly to do with the blatant commercialism which has steadily crept into sport. Anyone who reads this blog will know that I don’t have a lot of tolerance for corporate greed and I am totally skeptical of the rise of corporations, globalisation, and neo-liberal economics.

But what does this have to do with the RWC? Quite a lot actually. I plan to ignore the whole event as much as possible, just like I ignored that other travesty which passed for news recently: the royal wedding.

OK, so what are my specific objections? There are many but I want to discuss three in particular here which are representative of the overall problem.

First, there is the current issue of the price of All Blacks replica rugby jerseys. These sell in New Zealand for $220, about double he price of the same item in the US. That is bad enough but we know the people who manufacture these items are paid about 60 cents an hour. That is obscene and the silly excuses offered by Adidas just don’t hold up to any real scrutiny.

It’s an example of the worst in global corporate exploitation and the All Blacks should have nothing to do with it. But they rely on corporate sponsorship to pay their excessive salaries so I suppose they don’t have a choice. Well I guess greed and lack of moral values is what business is all about but is it really what we expect from sport?

Second, there is how so many aspects of life in New Zealand have been rearranged for the convenience of this one event. For example the first school term has been extended and the last term reduced. This inconveniences both teachers and students and many think it will lead to inferior learning but apparently that doesn’t matter compared with a few big companies making some extra cash from this so-called sporting event.

Extra building has been undertaken, transport has been re-arranged, and numerous other unnecessary projects have resulted from the RWC being run here. Could this extra expenditure not be used elsewhere? The government keeps telling us how little spare cash they have for health and education but apparently that isn’t a factor when it comes to subsidising big corporations.

Finally there is the sickening marketing associated with the RWC. Private police forces will be employed to make sure there is no sign of any brands competing with the official sponsors anywhere near the venues. The event and the All Blacks seem to have an official product of every type imaginable. Marketing is a sick pursuit at the best of times (I often call marketing executives “profesional liars”) but this has just taken the phenomenon to a whole new level of depravity.

Surveys show a distinct rejection of the RWC by many New Zealanders. Only 37% were looking forward to the games according to one recent survey. In a country where rugby is supposedly so well supported this does show how public acceptance of the modern treatment of sport has dropped.

But when the games start I’m guessing most people will watch at least some of them and it will be hard to avoid them as a topic of conversation. But I still say it’s just not cricket!

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