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'There's this kind of hoard mentality for footage of games that have already happened'

Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Gavan Casey on the need for access to rugby-match footage for fans, online analysts and the growth of the game.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated May 27th 2021, 8:00 PM

AFTER A FEW weeks discussing various structural issues in Irish rugby, Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Bernard Jackman decided to look inwards this week and delve into rugby punditry, a motion put forward for discussion in The42′s members rugby WhatsApp group following Toulouse’s Heineken Champions Cup final victory over La Rochelle.

As well as sharing their experiences of being part of broadcast teams for live games and ‘analysing the analysts’, Murray and Bernard fielded a host of questions and suggestions from the group, one of which came from The42 member Conor.

His bone of contention lay with how the highlights of Pro14 matches are cut, and the fact that they tend to be only three minutes long whether the game in question was “a 10-try or one-try affair”. He added that “where it’s a one-try affair, two and half minutes of the highlights are kickers lining up kicks — never the passage that actually led to the penalty; never any good or entertaining passage of play.

“The whole thing drives me nuts,” Conor added. “Highlights can be a great advertisement for the sport and this opportunity is constantly missed.”

“Definitely, definitely agree with all that,” Murray began. “I’ve had similar frustrations myself in the past and that’s why I always try to get a full copy of a game to watch back: because the highlights package just isn’t going to give you a full picture, particularly when, as the message says, it’s just penalty after penalty and you don’t even see the penalty offence to get an understanding of that side of it.

“It should be easier for fans to be able to access games after the fact.

It shouldn’t be as much of an issue that people are using footage to — like, some of the stuff on YouTube now is unreal and someone like Squidge Rugby who has a massive following is getting videos blocked. And I saw Geraint Davies who’s a Twitter analyst and rugby coach, and he’s had stuff blocked frequently from what I can follow on Twitter. Which is, again, disappointing, because people definitely learn from and engage with those videos and get a little bit more excited about the rugby at the weekend. But there’s this kind of hoard mentality for footage of games that have already happened.

“I can probably understand more if it’s going to be a classic and it’s going to be sold on a DVD at some stage, but for your kind of standard games week to week, it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me.”

Gavan accused a cohort of the sport’s custodians of living in “a bygone era”, suggesting that their apparent ‘hoarding’ approach to past footage does little other than stunt the growth of the game and, indeed, prohibit the visibility of the product that both competition officials and their broadcast affiliates are trying to develop for their own interests.

“If you look at America”, he said, “the NBA and Adam Silver (NBA commissioner) basically made the call to have a free-for-all with NBA footage on social media so that if LeBron [James] or Steph Curry or Kevin Durant or somebody does something unbelievable, somebody else can just rip the video and tweet it out and there’ll be no repercussions. And they’ve grown the game massively, increased ratings over the last few years, while allowing that.

“Whereas if you look at the NFL, which is actually struggling for viewership; you have the problem, also, of players being somewhat hidden behind helmets and they’re not as readily identifiable; but when people would rip NFL clips there would be almost legal repercussions for it, or tweets would be taken down, accounts might even be suspended — I think Twitter were kind of working with the NFL on that.

So, for people like Squidge who does an unbelievable job and has more than a cult following now, while you understand of course that there are contracts in place for broadcasting rights, there should be an understanding equally that these are people who will do your job for you. How many followers does Squidge have on social media that are in the bracket of 16 to 35, 40? That’s a huge demographic but it’s also the key demographic. Let him work away. It’s not going to cost you (rights-holders) anything, and it’ll actually help to put your product on people’s phone screens or in people’s living rooms.

“Or am I missing the point?” Gavan asked Bernard.

“No. I didn’t realise that that had happened in America but I think it’s very smart — and it needs to happen,” Jackman said. You have a load of people now who have a deep knowledge of the game, who are actively interested in spending time picking out clips trying to formalise tactical and technical ideas and share it for free.

“And as a sport, whether it’s World Rugby or the different organisations, we’re putting blockers in place — which sounds mental because, effectively, it’s a way to grow the game.

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“On the highlights thing”, Jackman continued, “I don’t watch any highlights. Like Murray, I download the game, I throw it into a bit of software and I cut it up as I go. That’s just the way I watch games. And I’ll file different things in different places.

I do know from coaching players — and the generation I coach would be 16, 17, 18 and upwards; a lot of them do consume their rugby just through highlights. So, they don’t understand how you get into the 22′, to get into the position to throw the offload that everyone looks at — because that kind of stuff doesn’t get shown on highlights videos. That’s the big thing for me, to be able to coach better by sending players clips that help their understanding of how you get into position to do things that are ‘sexy’!

“I think that’s a challenge for all coaches now because before, or certainly for me with the Five Nations, I would have sat down and watched the two games on the Saturday, or the three games over the weekend in the Six Nations. I would have watched the whole game. Whereas my fear now is… My own son is 12, he’ll never watch a full game, he’ll just watch whatever comes up on a smart phone.

“And that has an effect. I know from speaking to other schools coaches, they’ve had to adapt.”

You can listen to The42 Rugby Weekly for free every Thursday wherever you get your podcasts, and The42 members can also tune in for our Rugby Weekly Extra podcast with Murray and Eoin Toolan every Monday. For all of our extra podcasts, added features and to support our independent sports journalism, visit members.the42.ie.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella join Gavan Casey to discuss their roles in the rugby media, the concept of ‘bias’, punditry preferences, the art of co-commentary, new-age online analysts and much more

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