The Lions have announced they will be playing a game in Hong Kong before heading to Australia for the 2013 tour. Listen, I have absolutely no problem with unions trying to make a bit of money. Healthy balance sheets make for a healthy sport. But not the Lions, please not the Lions.
Before I hear any of you making the ‘but its spreading the gospel of rugby’ argument let me remind you a bit about Hong kong. Thats Hong Kong the former british colony with a huge ex-pat community. Thats Hong Kong home of the Hong Kong sevens, only the biggest and most established sevens event on the planet. So don’t tell me that anyone is spreading any gospel, coz if thats the goal they are already preaching to the choir.
So obviously it’s about money. But does it have to be? I cannot believe that the TV money, the sponsorships and the shirt sales don’t pay for the trip several times over. So what’s wrong with making a bit of cash on the side? It’s the Lions, it’s pure, it’s a beautiful remnant of an amateur era where money didn’t matter. Most players would still pay to go on a Lions tour, it means that much.
The strength of the Lions is its ability to harness the amateur spirit in professional surroundings. Clive Woodward’s failure to grasp this was his downfall as Lions coach. My question is this, Why not Tokyo? When the Bledisloe cup was played there they packed out a 50,000 stadium. The Lions could make a few quid while actually spreading the word of rugby to a country that is developing into a real rugby nation.
Playing in Hong Kong isn’t the worst thing to ever happen, but it strikes me as both mercenary and a missed opportunity. If the Lions management are amongst my readers, I beg you to move the game to Tokyo. But something tells me my plea won’t be heard.
A packed rugby stadium in Tokyo, truly great for the game.