Rugby rules…

TVOne News led with it. At first glance The New Zealand Herald  looks like it did too. Last  month, the newspaper had just  two words on its front page: IT’S ON! Which we already knew so it hardly  qualified as news.

Both media  outlets were covering the same  story, the Rugby World Cup. Thing is the Herald wasn’t – well, not exactly. The front page,usually the pride of newspapers, was a wrap-around.  At its bottom was a line which proudly proclaimed that this was an ad for the chain store  Harvey Norman… The real Granny Herald  hid inside,  shamed perhaps by its commercial  needs.

The same could be said of  TVONE. Weren’t there any other real stories to be told that evening? Or did it assume that  its entire audience was caught up in ruggers mania? As Harvey Norman/Granny Herald pointed out, the World Rugby Cup is on,  but  just how popular is rugby when compared to other  sports?

The website  has done a  thorough  job of compiling a  list of the ten  most popular sports.    First, it  critiqued its own  effort by asking just what ‘popular’ meant.

‘The word “popular”  could mean  ‘most watched sports’ or ‘most revenue-generating sports’ said the site.  It then  decided to rank the sports by using 15 different criteria for its final ranking.  Some of these included global fan base and revenue,  viewership on TV, and number of countries in which the sport is popular.

It used its criteria  to make sure its own assessment was accurate and  arrived at this list:

  • Soccer, 3.5 billion fans.
  • Cricket, 2.3 billion.
  • Basketball, 2.2 billion.
  • Field  and ice hockey, 2 billion.
  • Tennis, 1 billion.
  • Volleyball (really?) 900 million.
  • Table tennis (and ditto) 850 million.
  • Baseball, 500 million.
  • Rugby, one million.
  • Golf, 390 million.

There’s no doubt that we’re  a sporting society.   When it comes to  rugby,  the ninth most popular sport, we  lead the world, having  won three world cups. But  when did it become a news lead?

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.