Those of us who’ve been following most of the World Cup on Radio Sport may have heard some presenters talking about a “level playing field” from quite a different angle to the one we’ve been taking here. No, it’s not that the fields are actually sloping to one side – it’s the scheduling of games, which many of the “minnows” feel has unduely disadvantaged them. While the IRB scheduled New Zealand’s four matches over 24 days, it allowed the United States just 17 days for the same number of games. Talkback radio being what it is, many people seem to have taken a “suck it up” attitude towards this inequal distribution of games, but how can countries be expected to shine when they are placed at a disadvantage right from the outset of the competition?
Limited time between games isn’t the only scheduling hurdle for the “minnows” to climb either. While all of the countries get the chance to play at least one game in a major centre, most of the time the less familiar teams play in places like Napier and Whangarei. This is great for the people of Napier and Whangarei, but not necessarily so hot for the teams who end up with practice facilities a level or two below those present in the big cities.
We all know the reasons why this happens, of course, but surely it takes some of the credibility away from the competition when the IRB seems more interested in maximising its profit than in ensuring that every team gets the best possible shot at the Webb Ellis trophy?
Chris Nimmo is a student at Victoria University of Wellington and the New Zealand School of Music, and lead researcher for this project.