Once I loathed rugby. Now I enjoy some on tv. I can switch it off if I don’t. Beautiful Dan Carter has a lot to answer for. But I prefer league. It’s faster, incredibly acrobatic. Aussie commentators have a lightness of touch. League gets on with it, no rucks, lineouts. Only pretend scrums. It’s more innovative in changing rules to respond to problems. There are now two referees. It has far more playing time. Rugby is meant to be the brain game and favoured by toffs. Only the latter attribute appears to be true.
Those are my credentials for commenting on the World Cup plus a lifelong obsession with politics, religion, sex and MONEY. The World Cup is incredibly costly to host. Stadiums cost megabucks. They are subsidised by councils and central government. The justification is the downstream economic benefits. It turns out, rather like Rogernomics and its mystical belief in the rational market, the economic benefits are usually overstated. It failed to deliver on trickle down, greenfields investments, niche marketing on a big scale, a knowledge economy. We got asset sales, leaky houses, debt to gunwales and astonishing growth in the gap between rich and poor.
Stadiums as use changes (big music events are moving inside) may become white elephants, seats will rarely be full. Cup tourists may ‘crowd out’ other tourists who choose not to come to a rugby obsessed heaven.
The main beneficiary of the Cup is the IRB. It will make megabucks. The coteries of the IRB, corporates, politicians, as well as celebs, complaisant media, and upper classses will be well catered for. Highish earning young things who defer family formation in favour of partying and travelling can afford a game or two along with lesser mortals and families who save up it as a the special treat. The rest will make do with tv.
The price of tickets shocked many would be attendees, sales were slow. A month or so ago national disgust flared at the down on our knees position required by the IRB. Then followed a more defiant response to Adidas’ extortionate price for the All Black strip.
The National Government must have flinched. Labour won the hosting rights but it is National that will cop any flak from the Cup and the election is just around the corner. Although well ahead in the polls cannot bank on winning an outright majority so will need a coalition partner. ACT is dysfunctional, hugely unpopular, and terrifies National. However the difference between the two is largely cosmetic. National smiles, ACT snarls. Their policies are remarkably similar. The last thing National needs is for Cup party to be portrayed as exclusive.
Last election National chose the Maori Party as its coalition partner and rewarded it with some policy initiatives. Hone Harawira defected to campaign on the issues of Maori poverty, unemployment and associated social problems as well as the seabed and foreshore deal. Auckland has a large but struggling Polynesian community which loves rugby. It’s is well represented in the All Blacks and was highly visible as performers at the Cup opening ceremony. But that looked like the end of its participation.
The rapturous welcome of the Tongan team must have rung alarm bells. People wanted to party.
Party Central appeared to have been planned as a prettified area on the neglected waterfront to which the the toffs and players could migrate post-match for photo ops, autographs, more partying. Singing and dancing on the streets by tens of thousands certainly wasn’t catered for. Government subsidies had gone to Eden Park, a handful by comparison was wrung out of it by the City Council.
Maybe head cup honcho Murrary McCully woke up to the implications of leaving the Polynesian community and the less well off across the board out of the party. The Government issued a come one, come all invitation to Party Central. And they did. The outcome was chaos. McCully trashed the Council and Labour Mayor and seized control of the waterfront.
It is hard not to see his actions as politically motivated. Sensing blood the media weighed in. There have been similar problems in other venues overseas but nothing like the same reaction. Somebody must have reminded McCully it was his lot who issued the invitation, were in charge overall and should also have checked thoroughly to see that there was adequate public transport, space and facilities. A bit of backing up was done. The shaken council held its tongue and put getting things sorted its priority. In theory the Government should pay.
Watch this space in the election campaign.
All in all it looks like the Government, local and regional councils are coughing up about $500 million. The happiness outcome of partying can’t be measured. It will be tempered if the All Blacks don’t win. But what about the downstream social costs associated with he partying excess drinking, violence, hospital admissions and promotion of a drinking culture. The cost of diverting money from more needed services isn’t included in the bill. National’s asset sales – which will undoubtedly end up benefiting overseas investors and corporates – could be driven in part by subsidising partying toffs.