Lack of a major media partner could hurt Schoolboy rugby

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Coach Logic

Dissenting voices have not been hard to come by since Monday’s announcement by the RFU that NatWest are taking over the title sponsorship of the Daily Mail Cup, sifting through what is behind those dissenting voices has been more of a challenge though.

It seems that there are three main areas of concern for people; first that the Daily Mail have been harshly treated, particularly since they have supported the tournament since its inception and really were one of the driving forces behind it becoming the flagship schoolboy tournament that it is now.

Second; that people feel as though the RFU are trying to exploit the schoolboy game for their own financial gain, and third; that the tournament will suffer through a lack of coverage from the lack of a major media supporter.

My own view is that whilst from the outside the Daily Mail appears to have been hard done by, judgement must be reserved until we see the impact that NatWest has on the tournament, none of us are privy yet to the details of NatWest’s agreement with the RFU and it could be that they have some superb plans in place for the future of the tournament.

The same can be said in response to the claim that the RFU are simply just trying to make a much money as possible from the school game, we must wait to see what NatWest’s plans are.

What does concern me though is the lack of a major supporter in the media.

Over the past couple of days several people have spoken to me and said that I must be delighted, that with a big media presence out of the way it means even more readers and participants will turn to smaller outlets such as ourselves for news about the ‘NatWest Schools Cup’.

It is an understandable view and people are rightly surprised when I express my disappointment that the Daily Mail will no longer be the title sponsor of the tournament.

However, while for a website like it may be beneficial in the short term for there to be no ‘major’ media presence, for the good of the game and for the growth of schoolboy rugby it cannot be, and if there is one thing that we at Fifteen Rugby stand for, it is that we want to see the School game grow and for it to reach as wide an audience as possible.

So again we come back to the counter to the first two arguments, what plans do NatWest have in place to enhance the tournament and schools rugby more generally? Can the commitments that they must have made to the RFU outweigh the obvious void that exists in the absence of the Daily Mail?

It is also worth remembering that for the last few seasons it has been the Daily Mail RBS Cup, and with NatWest also falling into the RBS Group there is already a pretty good understanding of the tournament, its history and its nuances within the organisation.

It is certainly going to be an odd adjustment though, for 26 years it has been the Daily Mail Cup and the newspaper has become synonymous with schoolboy rugby, perhaps though it is that link between the two that has made this decision so controversial, perhaps all of us in the rugby community are just concerned about change.

The RFU have said though that they are exploring alternative media options so perhaps it is best to reserve judgement until then, it could well be that the Daily Mail are invited to become involved in the tournament in another capacity, however it seems unlikely given their obvious displeasure at the decision.

For now though all that remains is to say farewell to the Daily Mail, their service to schools rugby has been unquestionably magnificent and their efforts to grow this special tournament will be remembered for many years to come. Let us hope that NatWest can grow the Schools Cup even further, raising it to an even higher level and reaching an even greater audience.

We, of course, shall continue to strive to bring you as much detailed and engaging coverage as possible of the Schools Cup and of schoolboy rugby in general as we continue our campaign to grow participation, engagement and interest in schoolboy rugby.

We would be delighted to hear your thoughts on the new sponsorship deal for the RFU’s School Cup, just use the comments box below.

By Angus Savage

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