On the surface, the mission statement appears to be straightforward: show club rugby union to as many people as possible, both live and on television.
Make it inexpensive, family-friendly, and enjoyable. Invite players and coaches to help you spread the word. And, once you’ve gotten people’s notice, intensify your promotional efforts. Any company that sits on its hands is doomed.
So, why does Premiership rugby continue to ricochet from one crisis to the next? Nobody can fully legislate for a monarch’s death on the eve of a season. Or Worcester’s financial difficulties. Alternatively, Covid-19
But by the time the Bristol v Bath and Sale v Northampton games were belatedly postponed on Friday, tens of thousands of fans were in limbo bemoaning a frustrating lack of organisational clarity.
Even before a ball had been kicked it was patently obvious the English game is not as collectively well aligned as it should be.
Attempting to find common ground amongst 13 opposing parties with opposing objectives has once again proven difficult.
As a result, the rescheduled Bristol game could not be televised as planned, and it took place with a decreased audience and without a television match official.
Four of the six Premiership clubs hosting games drew less audiences than their inaugural September home encounter a year ago, while a fifth, London Irish, drew nine more fans.
Bristol were up because Bath brought more fans than Saracens did the previous year.
It’s a shame since, as always, the players gave their best.
There is a separate debate about whether English club rugby is better or worse than rest of the world rugby, but the consensus remains that club rugby should have a larger support.
It is surely time to start talking about ticket costs.
Seats in the main grandstand for Exeter vs. Harlequins this month, for example, are available for £80. It’s £65 on the other side of the stadium, in the upper tier of the new stand. An adult ticket behind the turnstiles now costs between £40 and £56.
These are hefty pricing in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis. However, as club chairman Tony Rowe likes to say:
“All my life I’ve never wanted to be the cheapest. I don’t like discount. I always think you should give value for money.”
There is an argument that wearing a different coloured away shirt, simply because football does so, diminishes a club rugby brand rather than enhances it.
But enough is enough. It is also vital to recognise solid practise, especially when the season is still young. Visiting Kingsholm, for example, is still a delight, as is visiting several other grounds.
The players are also as eager as ever.
With a few more bums on seats and some new footage of Genge and Rees-Zammit in full cry, all may not be lost.