Make the game great again: Force CEO
Western Force CEO Mark Evans wants the sport of Rugby Union to re-engage with the Australian sporting public, after news the club would be joining a proposed domestic competition in 2020.
While still committed to owner Andrew Forrest’s Global Rapid Rugby longer term, Evans said in the interim the domestic competition represented the Force’s best hopes of returning to the field this year.
“I think we’re in extraordinary times, aren’t we? Evans told Sports Drive on Wednesday.
“Once GRR most unfortunately had to cancel along with virtually ever other major sporting competition in the country, and that it was pretty clear that travel overseas was going to be severely restricted for longer, then when we were approached we looked at it pretty carefully,”
“Once we ascertained that we were going to be treated fairly and equitably from a financial point of view, we felt it was quite important the game pulls together in difficult times.”
The club stressed in a statement on Wednesday that the proposed domestic tournament was only a short-term solution and was not holding out hope of a return to the Super Rugby competition.
“That’s a separate issue really, we’re not really engaged in that in the moment. I’m not sure there’s anything to engage with at the moment if I’m perfectly honest,” Evans said.
“That all looks rather opaque as I sit here today. What will that look like? Will it be this competition? I don’t know. If you look at the situation it’s still very fluid in other parts of the world, South Africa for example. I don’t think anything I’d say on that at the moment would be very helpful to be honest.”
Evans acknowledged the sport was struggling to capture the imagination of fans, both with the national Wallabies team and at Super Rugby level.
The experienced CEO said he wants to see a more exciting product for the fans.
“Australians traditionally have always pushed for an entertaining brand of football, in Global Rapid Rugby we embraced that with some law changes,” Evans said.
“We have tried to make the game slightly differ and quicker, that’s not to say you can go too far away, but the product can be improved. I know people in Rugby Australia are keen for that to happen as well, so we are on the same page there.”
“Sports popularity is in participation. It needs people to play it, and it needs to have visibility across the broadcast landscape. I think it might be bold to say in the last 15-20 years it’s been quite hard for the fan base to access it.”
Evans acknowledged that different time zones made things difficult for fans to watch their teams play regularly, with games played in South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Argentina as well as Australia.
Rugby Australia is set to announce more plans for the Australian domestic competition in the coming weeks.
IMAGE: Western Force website.