Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Column, April 22, 2008

IF in doubt, blame the media.
In fact, strike that, there’s no need to actually be in doubt. It’s a rule we should all live by – get up, shower, breakfast, feed the cat, blame the media and go to work.
There are few sticky situations you will find yourself in where you can’t buy yourself a bit of wiggle room by blaming the media.
I’ll bet as the crowds departed from Calvary someone piped up that it was the Scribes that were to blame for the death of Our Lord.
Now, I’ll accept that I’ve got a bit of a vested interest here, being an accursed hack, and yes, one, who, on occasion would turn up on the doorsteps of those in dire circumstances and inquire whether a word with the papers might help.
And now, it seems, we are to blame for Welsh Rugby’s decision to shift a match to a Friday night.
As WRU spokesman John Williams put it: Our view is that we already have Friday night rugby in the Heineken Cup, the Rugby World Cup and domestic rugby and we are heavily dictated to by the media.”
“Dictated to be the media” eh? And just how does that work then.
As soon as the television deal was signed did the men in jackboots march in saying: “A-ha, ve haf vays of making you play on a Friday night, for you Dai, ze days of daytime rugby are over.”
No, I suspect that by dictating, what our man at the WRU was indicating was that TV will pay for Friday night rugby, on the grounds that they can sell adverts into it if they’re commercial, or they can get audience share if they are the BBC.
Either way, I don’t think the dastardly media types were saying give us Friday nigtht rugby or we won’t show it at all.
So it was open to the Six Nations Committee and the WRU to say, well, actually, on reflection, no, we’ve always played Six Nations on a Saturday or Sunday, so there it stays.
But then, name a sporting association since the invention of TV that has resisted the blandishments of broadcasters?
But can we honestly say they have all benefited? OK, snooker, I’ll give you snooker. Once a pastime for those who needed something to fill the intervals between smoking and drinking it was dragged out of the shadows and thrust into the spotlights of the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield .
But apart from that, what sport hasn’t sold its soul when it dealt with TV?
You only have to look at what football has become to see where rugby will go. Football long ago abandoned any pretence of consideration for the fans that filled the terraces. They are just another asset to be stripped of cash via ticket prices and ever-changing replica shirts.
And if they complain, so what, the Premiership clubs know they can fill seats many times over, and even if they can’t it doesn’t matter because the TV cash will fill any void left on the terraces.
Now, the money-persons at the WRU may shake their heads at my naivety and say that’s the way things are in today’s hard-headed commercial world. But do we really want rugby to go the way of football?
To its credit rugby has managed the transition from amateurism, via ‘shamateurism’ to become fully professional without players turning into the preening clothes-horses that afflict the Premiership.
The sad fact is that the Six Nations will probably get away with this and many fans who would like to have been in Paris will, of course, tune in to watch on TV.
But it’s one snub to true fans would otherwise have made the trip to France but now can’t because of work commitments. Such small blows add up until slowly but surely the face of a game we love has changed forever.

GREAT to see the BBC comedy ‘Gavin & Stacey’ do so well at the BAFTAs on Sunday.
Firstly, because it’s very, very funny and deserves the plaudits.
Secondly because much of its humour features the Welsh and yet it manages to refrain from that humour revolving around the rib-tickling revelations that a) we talk funny, and b) there are a lot of sheep in this country so there’s got to be some shenanigans going on there hasn’t there?
Thirdly, because anything featuring Rob Brydon is worth a gong, he’s a genius.
It was also a relief to see the BBC costume drama Cranford do so appallingly badly. It is dull beyond words and it was nice for once not to see awards going to a drama based on the yardage of crinoline used in its production.

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