Thinking inside the box leaves fans in cold

Editorin Rugby

The groundsmen try to warm the pitch up with a heater before the match is called off just before kick off during the RBS 6 Nations match between France and Ireland at Stade de France on February 11, 2012 in Paris, France. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/) piccy.jpg

The temperature fell to minus 10, the pitch iced over and, minutes before kick-off, the referee called off the match. This was last Saturday at the Stade de France, in Paris, where a Six Nations rugby match between France and Ireland should have been played, but wasn't. Nearly 80,000 fans, including 6000 from Ireland, hunched into the collars of their overcoats and trudged off disconsolately into the night.

Europe is in the grip of a deep freeze. It is not certain that the pitch would have been safe at any time last Sunday. But by scheduling the match for 9.30pm authorities were inviting fiasco. ''We all know why it was on at that time,'' rugby correspondent Mick Cleary wrote for London's Daily Telegraph. ''TV, the ogre of the age, the monster that must be obeyed at every turn. As long as there are bums on TV seats, anything is possible or permissible.''

This is simplistic. In rugby, as in all professional sport, television pays the bills and broadens the audience. But it does lead Cleary to another point.
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''Whatever happened to the needs of the ordinary fan, the one who forks out his own hard-earned cash to make the trip, not just to support his team, but to lend colour and noise to the occasion,'' Cleary asks. ''Mugs, that's what they are, wonderfully, spirited, loyal mugs who shell out the money just so that the couch-potato viewer can get his late-night fix. Long live the mugs, for live sport would be a soulless affair without them. If it weren't for these people, there would be little to sell to the TV companies.''

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