Forget the fans – it’s the sponsors calling the tune on the All Blacks series defeat to Ireland


From All Black fans there is a full range of adjectives being used to describe the series loss to Ireland along with many colourful descriptions of coach Ian Foster.

I played rugby at school (getting into the trials for the third XV at Napier Boys’ High School was the peak of my rugby career – I didn’t get selected) and coached 6th grade rugby as a teacher but I’m still surprised at the lack of maturity in so many rugby fan reactions to All Black losses. Why would so many people live their lives through the successes and failures of a national sports team?

I won’t be surprised if we are told the series loss resulted in a sharp spike in domestic violence incidents.

Unfortunately, it’s always been that way. The country has never gone beyond adolescent reactions to All Black losses. Is this as big as we are? Probably.

The reaction of Rugby Union Chief Executive Mark Robinson however comes from a different perspective.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson took the rare step of issuing a strongly-worded press statement on Sunday, saying the series was under immediate review.

“Congratulations to the Irish team for their well-deserved win last night but clearly the performance across the series for the All Blacks was not acceptable as we know they have reflected,” Robinson said.

He didn’t say disappointed or frustrated or dissatisfied or upset or unhappy. He said the All Black series loss was “not acceptable”.

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Seriously? Yes.

Robinson is saying that elite rugby has moved beyond sport. It is a business and it is “not acceptable” to the All Black sponsors that the team has lost this series. No sponsor wants to be associated with losing. They have invested heavily in the All Black brand as a winning brand and they expect the team to win. They have no loyalty to the game, the fans or the rugby union. Their loyalty is to the financial investment they have made.

Now they will be seriously upset. Hence the “immediate review” into the series loss.

Elite rugby can be described as many things – sport is not the main one.


  1. I think rugby is withering on the vine. It’s still important in provincial NZ but in Auckland, not really.

    It’s a slow highly technical game with ball in play a little over a 3rd of the actual game time. The game on Saturday night had scrum reset after reset. That was it for me.

    It’s a game from my perspective that did It’s utmost to exclude any other code using a fairly high level old boy network to ensure few other codes got a look in at school.

    The Springbok tour of ’81 tarnished its god like image but the rot really statred to set in when it turned professional at about the time this country started coming out of its cultural cocoon. Free to air games stopped, it got all the more exclusive and when kids no longer watch it because their families couldn’t afford to watch, so did the interest dissolve. Add to that the cultural diversity that now exists especially in Auckland, it’s no wonder fewer are interested much less want to play.

    Fuck union, it sold its corrupted boring soul repeatedly and that some dudes in green shirts thrashed them is all good with me!

  2. Didn’t New Zealand sell the All Blacks to the US of A ? If so, it could’ve been a Faustian pact. If I’m wrong, which can happen, then perhaps they need the great John Key hanging around their dressing room again to inspire them and hug them and do whatever else he does, or the great Helen Clark-without-an-e, inducing policemen to break the speed limit to get her to the match on time and inspire them, or it’s time for the Bald Prima Donna to rustle up a few shiny Mercedes to cart them on and off the field and help atrophy their legs along with the grey matter of the effete politicians of all ilk and flog them off mates-rates to China with our milk powder and the cheapest water in the world. These guys are responsible for kiwi blokes getting as drunk as skunks and eating too many fatty sausages at the same time. The times are achanging. Yippee.

  3. Professional sport world wide is poisoned by greed.

    I used to love follow various teams in various codes but in the end I walked away: the fun was mainly gone and instead replaced by suits looking to turn a sport into a money making venture that sees the fans as cash cows

  4. The rugby union is panicking because of performance clauses in the contract that sold the ABS. That company paid big money for the number 1 team in the world. They get a refund if we drop below 4th ranking.

  5. Professional sport has been around for a very long time so sure money is important.
    To say otherwise is to deny reality.

  6. Ian Foster is not a good coach…evidence? Name one player who’s performance has increased…not one player. Foster got the job because the panel “did not understand” Scott Robinson, the Crusader’s coach vision…BS!

    • Yup Foster needs to be replaced with Robinson straight away but will be surprised if this actually happens.

      Up to our eyeballs in covid / flu / rising interest rates + food cost + petrol costs / woke bullshit / everyone living in fear of upsetting the trannies (where are all these trannies anyway)? and now the All Blacks losing on a regular basis . . this really is the winter of our discontent.

  7. LOL. While we were promoting Women in Rugby and making sure our Haka was flawless Northern Hemisphere sides have focused on their elite athletes and teams. You go woke you go broke.

    2 years as a smug hermit nation didn’t help either.

    • Some truth in that, plus we are stale for ideas.
      I would pick only about 4 of our team as real All Black class. A shame we can’t clone Savea.
      Our locks are well past their best -too slow and losing our own line outs.
      A bunch of the younger faces shouldn’t be in a jersey.
      The coaching old boys club should have been broken 2 coaches ago before they coasted in to a brick wall with no new ideas.
      The aimlessness of the All Blacks was quite visible, that’s a reflection of leadership on and off the field.
      Cane is a good player but he’s not Richie as a player or a captain.

      It could be our more pacific style of running rugby doesn’t suit the more prescriptive rules which the northern hemisphere teams don’t seem to struggle with quite as much.

      Plus Ireland are simply significantly better.
      Not sure how we blame capitalism for all that.

    • Frank the Tank. No no no. Pre-hermit this country was bug smug about big boys kicking ovum-shaped balls around, and girls playing it too is an abomination of nature. School boy rugby used to be the best rugby played in New Zealand, but they’re shrugging it off now too, and that’s how it is. The haka became tiresome and generated hysterical wails about cultural appropriation if anyone else did it, and with all the stories emerging about premature dementia among ball-kicking blokes, it’s time to grow up. Let’s embrace Matthew Rugby Arnold’s poetry instead…

    • Yep we won the haka, woop fuckin dee doo!!!! As I said, it needs to go at the beginning of the match. Way back, the All Blacks with Jonah on board won the 7s…HK I think? They did a haka at the end – awesome, amazing, proud, meaningful. This weird spectacle at the beginning is embarrassing when followed by a pussy roll over performance – so much for ‘us mean and dangerous’ All Blacks.

  8. The only rugby or football worth watching is the world cup every four years when sometimes the minnows put the shits up the titans.

  9. It sounds the People Experience team of All Blacks Inc needs to do some careful thinking, move some resources around, ask some resources to find another place to perform. Unbelievable corporatist h*******t

  10. Good to see the turnout from the Irish fans as well. Really makes you think… maybe if the cheapest ticket to a match here wasn’t twice the price that it would be for a Connacht Pro14 fixture, more of our fans would have money left over to make some noise overseas?

  11. First change that has to happen: only Haka after a win! This upfront ‘we’re so scary’ circus, and then we play like pussies. It’s embarrassing.

  12. Played rugby. Watched rugby. A lot, admittedly mostly on TV with my Dad, who would regale me with stories of the Boks of ’37 and ’56 Boks, the Lions of ’59 and especially 1971; the wins and the losses, triumphs and tragedies, including the great provincial games in history. And with that richness behind I’d sit with university mates who had lived the same experiences as we watched rugby in the 1980’s.

    I was working in the US when the game went professional and I was interested to see what the impact was when I returned in the 2000’s. Given what I saw of professional sport in the USA I had concerns that the game would fall away in rural areas and turn into perhaps half-a-dozen teams across the country. I think that is basically what has happened; the attendance at Eden Park several years ago when Auckland won the National Championship was pitiful.

    For me it slowly dwindled in the early 2000’s. I dumped SKY after the ’03 WC but the cracks were obvious two years earlier as I became saturated with the sport. When games between the All Blacks and other national teams were scattered over time you remembered them; they meant something. But I couldn’t tell you the results of more than perhaps half-a-dozen AB games from the professional era. In 2001 there was an AB-Bok test in Dunedin where it’s almost always wet and cold. Now it would be at night and the Bok backline was poor so overall I was not expecting an exciting, flowing game. So it proved and with twenty minutes to go and the AB’s leading by only 9 points I switched off the TV and went to bed.

    If you had told that to 14-year old me I would not have believed you. Twenty years later my watching has dwindled to almost nothing; missed the 2007 and 2011 WC’s entirely, with only a viewing of the 2015 WC final to see if the AB’s could win a repeat, overseas, and be first to the triple.

    More importantly my kids have zero interest in the sport, or in most sport generally – though they did get excited about the Cubs winning the 2016 World Series! 🙂

  13. it’s not sport it’s marketing…
    the public shouldn’t subsidise it by 1 plugged nickle
    they want a ‘business’, cool, stand or fall like any other business

  14. In my opinion John is half right. The population has changed their attitude to rugby test losses in the last thirty years. Anyone I know, and all my circle follows rugby, are disappointed in the loss, and don’t think Foster is the right guy, but are philosophical about the result. The other big rugby countries of the world have caught up and the ABs are always going to lose a few games. I do agree with John that the big new Sponsor Silver Lake, who now owns 15% of the commercial asset will want results. Foster will be high on their hit list and if we can’t improve results the ABs will suffer financially. The show games in the US may become more common if anyone can be bothered watching.

  15. “The country has never gone beyond adolescent reactions to All Black losses.” I think adolescent reactions happen to fans of any sport throughout the world. Never mind, John – at least you have been able to make an article of it….

    • Yes Thomas NZ rugby supporters are very calm when compared to just about every other sport world wide.Been to a football match in South America or the UK?
      Baseball, basketball or gridiron in the USA?
      Left wingers in NZ have for reasons I cannot fathom always felt a need to knock rugby.
      Typically looking for attention maybe?

  16. It’s very sad, if mildly amusing, how many comments follow a Stuff story on the All Blacks recent games. They ended up in the hundreds, aggregating to thousands. It’s very clear what is very concerning to NZers – or is that mainly male NZers? – in the past few weeks.
    It’s not politics, global warming, the economy, even Covid, nah!
    The planet can burn, be flooded out; countries wage baseless war and civil riots erupt; famine kills thosands if not millions daily; economies are crashing etc etc… but a couple of mediocre performances by our beloved ABs, and we’ve got plenty to say (even if it’s mostly BS).
    Perspective, people, perspective!

  17. Hopefully they’ve already made up their minds to replace Fozzie with Razor and ‘review’ is just code for dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s so they don’t get a PG lobbed at them later (but not too much later) when it happens.

  18. The numbers–empty stands and falling pay per view and declining grass roots activity tell the true story, rugby is appreciated by barely 25% of kiwis these days according to accounts I have heard.

    Have never liked rugby since primary school–weigh ins? wtf…a teacher stuck 1966 Lions tour stickers on our bags whether we wanted them or not. Played a couple of times, covered in mud holding on to other boys in various positions–later in life read accounts of the homoerotic overtones of settler rugby.

    Never played since, though my father reckoned he was a junior All Black trialist no doubt like thousands of other kiwis did or imagined they did–“coulda been a contender…” Did not like rugby culture either sausage rolls
    gallons of watery piss and “Whadarrrrya” as per Foreskins Lament.

    As a political activist by 1981 you can guess why I kept a green motorcycle helmet with a dent in the top for many years. The cops loved rugby too–“eat more, root more, drink more piss” as the Red Squad chanted in training to smash mainly undefended protesters standing up for justice for South Africans.

    So I am pleased anytime the mighty All Blacks get a lesson in their hi tech costumes, inflated pay and corporate sponsors.

    • Just another kid who played a few games of rugby – turned out to be no good – holds a weird grudge against the sport and anyone who does like it ever since . . hopefully over time and some pretty intensive counselling you can get of the ‘sticker trauma’ as well Tiger Mountain.

  19. most of the kids play football these days – rugby is becoming more niche – as for the AB’s – a bunch of amateurs playing at professionalism. The Irish exposed this shortcoming admirably.

    • “A bunch of amateurs playing at professionalism” – To be honest this comment alone marks you as incredibly ignorant.

      • Yes on a games played games won the All Blacks are one of the most successful professional sports team in history. So totally agree JB with your description of billid.


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