So the 2013 Lions Tour of Australia comes to an end, the Aussies got smashed, Warren was smiling and everyone got paid. The tour had it all, bright lights, topless men frolicking on beaches and the odd bit of rugby so why am I not entirely satisfied by the first series victory since 1997?
Let me lay my cards on the table, within the broader context of the game the Lions means little to me. I get it, I understand it but for me it serves no purpose. I watch the games and like to see Irish players do well. It’s the Ryder Cup of Rugby and rewards athletes who are recognised as elites in their domestic and national games and I am fine with that. A money making exercise with some very serious numbers behind it. According to the media reports the tour cost an estimated £14 million to run with the Australian rugby union benefiting from a £40 million windfall. Each home Union will pocket approximately £6 million so its clear to see the rationale behind the tour.
While I place more emphasis on the provincial and international competitions in general, I have always respected the ethos that underpinned the tour. Legends such as Willie John McBride and JJR Williams talk extensively of the tours of old, the struggle through adversity, the camaraderie etc. but when I look at the modern tours, particularly this one, I simply don’t see the correlation.
The rise of professionalism always meant that the Lions would evolve representing exciting opportunities. We all know the benefits of professionalism and it is to be encouraged however I think there is a very real risk of the values that make the jersey so revered are being lost in the bright lights. For me, the opening game against the Barbarians in Hong Kong was a glaring example of this. The game served no purpose and potentially put players at needless risk but it was a good occasion to the get sponsors in to the boxes and get their photos taken with the players. I am sure Adam Jones was thrilled. It served no purpose, except to generate approximately £10.4 million!
I am not bashing sponsors or being naive, I work in an industry where I understand the role of sponsorship and its value. The Lions is an attractive brand but its value lies in its heritage, a heritage that I feel is becoming distorted or even worse, lost as time goes on. In my opinion, the next tour in New Zealand will be telling. The approach taken to its coordination and communication will define our perceptions of the players and ultimately the jersey. The question for the powers that be, will be whether it is a case of evolution or revolution? Lion’s fans however can rest easy, with healthy numbers like those listed above there is no question marks over its future. To quote the great Puff Daddy, “it’s all about the Benjamin’s”.
Any comments, abuse etc. can be directed toward @dbkinch