Now no-one is prouder than me of what the England rugby union team have achieved in the last 20 years. After all it was at the RWC in South Africa in 1995 that I first did the original deal to cement our company’s (then Cellnet, now O2) significant relationship with the England team. And it has survived to this day, long after I left of course.
But it has been tough to watch them at this tournament hasn’t it? Fiji ok but only after an hour’s play; Wales was just so depressing because the game was won, then lost; and Australia was just a battering. Sigh. I was collecting some stuff for my wife from the pharmacy in Twickenham today and I noticed a shop window across the street which seemed to sum things up – tacky happy crap anticipating the Australia game still on display. Before showing you the scene, a comment; it’s hard to believe that one of the world’s greatest sporting tournament is being hosted in our town and at rugby HQ just a mile away at Twickenham Stadium. A few measly banners are all there are on show. It’s rubbish. Jeez back in 1999 as a RWC sponsor we were dressing 32-storey sky scrapers, blasting huge images via giant projectors onto buildings and plastering any BT building within a mile of a RWC venue in England, Wales, Scotland and N.Ireland with huge banners and complementing it with imaginative street activity. This time around there’s virtually no visual dynamics nor atmosphere outside the grounds themselves. Except by local shopkeepers doing their own thing with some cheep freebie bunting from the RFU and others.
So here’s the shop just yards from the High St with meek encouraging words for the upcoming match with Australia and this was today, 5 October. It had to be a funeral director’s salon…
It’s grimly ironic and pretty pathetic isn’t it? But here’s the thing; whilst the RWC organisers have sought to limit brand association with the event, protecting the interests of their sponsors of course, to carefully controlled areas like the official stadia grounds and formal fan zones, the general public have bought tickets in huge numbers and generously supported the tournament, despite the low key dressing and po-faced celebratory policy. There may be a significant downturn in interest now that England are out of course. But I sense that the best young team of the tournament may well be England and their time may come in 4 years time in Japan, who I’m sure will show the world how to put on a show, celebrating the great game of rugby. But it’ll be a long way to go to watch England win it again. Somebody got the plan wrong here.