Rugby

The only kneeling required by the Wallabies is in prayer (to survive)

When will the Wallabies wake up and realize that the last 18-24 months of woke political correctness has been a large part of the near collapse of the franchise?

From the handling of Israel Folau’s dismissal, players pushing climate change activism even though sponsored by companies with larger than average carbon footprints or the complete stuff up of broadcast rights, the Wallabies are virtual roadkill.

The franchise has lost its #1 sponsor in Qantas in recent days. So all told, for a business that has been looking to financially recover from a sizable out-of-court settlement, rebuild after a clean out of the board including the CEO on top of the release of the head coach who said he had no relationship with senior management, do the players believe that kneeling for a group that espouses Marxism, including the destruction of the nuclear family is the type of activism to bring advertisers and sponsors rushing to fill the void with equal wads of cash?

The franchise needs to show leadership, not displays of corporate Marxism. Management needs to take a firm stance and show future sponsors that the leadership team is in control of the largest money spinner, not the other way around.

Have the Wallabies not seen the fan drain in other sporting codes like the NBA which is now ditching on field protests in 2021 because the ratings have plummeted so dramatically?

Why do they want to kneel for BLM now? Why not in the first two Bledisloe games if they felt so triggered about it being such an issue? Does anyone believe that seeing yet another sporting code fold to this brainwashing will sway the overwhelming majority of fans already on board with racial equality?

This seems like any old attempt to get publicity. Will all players kneel? Or will some choose to stand? Will some players who don’t wish to take a knee end up complying for the sake of not being attacked by the cancel culture mob?

All the Wallabies need to do is focus on winning. That’s what makes the turnstiles tick over. We think re-signing Israel Folau – with a stricter contract around his social media postings – would do wonders for bringing the team back to life. 

When all is said and done the team is a business, like any other. Such displays of social justice tend not to resonate with paying customers who merely want to consume the product. It is a dangerous game to test their loyalty.

Perhaps the Wallabies should ask themselves when they intend to finish the virtue signaling? Or will they merely switch to the next social issue de jour to protest about?

#GetWokeGoBroke 

That has been the problem all along. It isn’t time to double down. It is time to reflect on getting on par with the glory days of rugby. 

Raelene hands back the keys to the Castle

The Giteau Law will be reviewed in 2019. Photo: Getty Images

Rugby Australia’s (RA) board losing faith in CEO Raelene Castle was inevitable. We have long held that RA’s leadership team had no rudder.

FNF Media has openly criticised the lack of performance as its biggest failing – from the ridiculous state of affairs where management had no relationship with the head coach of the core franchise to the focus on “woke” causes which alienated fans (aka core customers). Folau’s saga and broadcast rights could have been handled far more sensibly. They weren’t.

Let’s be clear. COVID19 was a catalyst, not the cause.

Any business must adapt to transitions in the marketplace but never for the sake of chasing popular causes which have little or nothing to do with core competencies. That is where RA went wrong.

Castle commented,

I love rugby on every level and I will always love the code and the people I have had the honour of working with since I took this role…I made it clear to the board that I would stand up and take the flack and do everything possible to serve everyone’s best interests…

“…In the last couple of hours, it has been made clear to me that the board believes my no longer being CEO would help give them the clear air they believe they need…

“…The game is bigger than any one individual – so this evening I told the Chair that I would resign from the role I will do whatever is needed to ensure an orderly handover. I wish the code and everyone who loves rugby nothing but the best and I would like to thank the people I work with and the broader rugby community for their enormous support.

We believe that a fish rots from the head. The lack of decisive crisis management talent has led to this situation. Ultimately the ‘customers’ deserted in droves. We tabulated the differences between the management of RA vs our rivals across the ditch.

RA needs a new leader who has grown up in the game. Who understands the customers. Who understands the investment required at the junior and club rugby level so the professional side can incubate talent. To get to a stage where the regular local competitions don’t lose players to overseas leagues that have ended up hollowing out the ability to run sustainable club competitions.

The new leadership team can start by removing/demoting any staff in positions of authority who laid down threats of walking if Castle was pushed. There is a distinct difference between issuing ultimatums and raising dissenting voices during crises. RA doesn’t need any more poison during a rebuild.

Produce the right product and the fans will return. It’s that simple.

The link between laundry and high speed rail

Having lived in Japan for two decades, it was so easy to take things such as this dry-cleaning message for granted. The way it was put in a plastic zip-lock bag with the item stuck to the docket. Complete attention to detail.

I didn’t realise how much I missed this part of the culture. Yet it transcends across every facet of life.

Take the bullet train. JR Central, the owner of the main Tokaido Line reported the following in its latest annual report.

In over 50 years there have been zero accidents. The railway has spent JPY3.5 trillion with a “t” ($35bn) in safety and maintenance alone. Safety and reliability are paramount to growing ridership.

The train runs 368 services a day servicing 466,000 passengers. It had an average delay of 0.7 minutes per train service. For the environmentalists, the Tokaido Line emits 1/12th the CO2 per passenger of a commercial aircraft. So there is a green lining too.

When attending the Australia vs NZ cricket on a hot day earlier in the month, “The Light Rail Service has stopped working. Buses will operate in their place” popped up on the big screen. The entire 30,000 crowd burst out into spontaneous laughter. How much bigger joke could this project get? How can it take 50 minutes to get to Randwick from Circular Quay?

In short, a French designed train built in India couldn’t operate because the temperature expanded the track causing it to become jammed. If being delayed for over one year wasn’t embarrassing enough, who knew Australia had hot days from time to time?

Our Sydney Metro has also been plagued by setbacks. Same situation. French designed trains made in India. Breaking down in tunnels and so forth. Driverless they may be but rudderless too.

Yet the Japanese are about to take the bullet train to a new level. The MAGLEV will allow passengers to get to Nagoya from Tokyo (300km) in 40 minutes! Imagine a trip to Canberra in that time? Tokyo to Osaka (500km) will only take 67 minutes.

If we think that Australia has grown its population by 2.2m (+10%) since 2013, our airports won’t be able to handle the extra expansion. At the moment, there are 54,500 flights annually between Sydney and Melbourne. On a daily basis around 27,000 people make this pilgrimage.

By comparison, the Tokaido Line runs around 78,000 passenger per day bettwen Tokyo and Nagoya. 145,000 between Tokyo and Osaka.

High speed rail is a no brainer for Australia. As a former ANU student some 30 years ago, I often made the journey from Sydney to Canberra. The distance between Liverpool and Campbelltown is around 20km. 30 years ago they were separated. Now housing has expanded from either direction along the Hume Highway such that the two towns are more or less connected by numerous new suburbs. The population is putting pressure on new housing.

Many public servants who work in the nation’s capitol, Canberra, now live in Goulburn, a country town some 45 minutes out. Shuttle buses now run between the two towns such has been the trend.

If the population keeps expanding at a 10% clip every 6 years, the infrastructure just won’t keep up. If Australia isn’t thinking about high speed rail for much longer, it will be too late. To think such rail infrastructure will take 20 years to execute.

The record tells us that the Japanese are the best partners to develop the HSR in Australia. Surely we have had enough bad experiences with the French to date to want to have them run another project. Trains or submarines. The Chinese have hardly ingratiated themselves by canceling visas of our politicians. They don’t have the safety record of the Japanese, either.

The Japanese build things to last. Is it any wonder the Japanese ensure the sleepers have higher volcanic ash content to ensure their long-life? Not in China. Hence why one of China’s high speed trains derailed in 2011 because of a cracked sleeper with lower ash content. Even worse the authorities ended up just digging a hole and pushing the crashed rolling stock in and burying it.

The Taiwanese have probably made the most sensible recent HSR investment. Ridership has grown from 15.5 million in 2007 to around 67.4 million today. Punctuality is also 99.8%. Sound familiar? It should do.

The Japanese-led Taiwan Shinkansen Consortium won the contract by a combination of soft loans and flexible structures. The Taiwanese government also introduced flexible depreciation, refinanced the debt terms and bought a majority of the publicly listed railway. It has now made capital gains on its investment! They bought Japanese rolling stock made by Kawasaki Heavy Industries which has been bulletproof.

So it is high time the Australian and state governments started to think about getting their act together on HSR. Japanese technology is the only sensible option. It is competitive, reliable and if you have had any friends attended the Rugby World Cup last year, they’ll all tell you how amazing the bullet train was.

Oh and the airlines should love the high speed rail as it will free up slots to use on better routes. Even better they could be partners to running the rail operating system.

CM says a big thank you

CM honestly reads such headlines and breathes a sigh of relief. No greater service to humanity could they fulfill.

CM also hopes that the retired Wallaby can sleep at night now he doesn’t have to wear a uniform emblazoned with the logos of two giant users within the fossil fuel world – Qantas and Land Rover.

Which begs the question, why didn’t Pocock rush straight to Wallabies CEO Raelene Castle and demand that she jettison these brands from the sponsorship list? How could he have put a lucrative salary ahead of the environment for all of those years ?

The right thing to do would have been to force the Wallabies to play exclusively at home only to teams that sailed to compete against them and only during hours of daylight.

That is how proper virtue signaling is done.

Rugby Australia chokes on its own incompetence

IZZY.png

After exchanging a politically correct, vomit-inducing and nose-bleedingly insincere prepared statement drafted by professional media consultants -not lost on anyone – the fact remains that Rugby Australia (RA) is the loser in the Israel Folau saga. We can forget the original source of the dismissal and the rights and wrongs of it. If RA thought it had a proper case, the legal fees (which it claimed were worth saving and settling out of court) would have been way less than the $10m payout he was demanding. So much for supporting the very communities the RA plasters all over its website.

The outcome was the result of management incompetence in thinking that appearing woke trumped legal due process. In full knowledge that Folau had a $1.6mn war chest (courtesy of Christians, free speech advocates and rugby fans alike) to take up the case against his former employer, the board was forced to buckle and issue an apology to the former rugby star, which would never have been necessary if it had a smidgen of judgment in the beginning.

RA CEO Raelene Castle can laugh off “wildly inaccurate” speculation on the $8mn rumoured settlement but the fact is the board knows the exact amount. Israel and Maria Folau wouldn’t have been grinning like Cheshire cats were he to have signed away for less than his rescinded contract. It will be fascinating to see the composition of the 2019/20 reported figures that will be published in due course. Expect some accounting trickery to fudge it into the numbers.

Castle said a few months back that the franchise could weather paying out Izzy Folau’s $10m claim. Although CM is not sure that paying out $10m + costs – which would wipe out almost 2/3rds of the $18mn in cash on the balance sheet – is something a CEO should think is worth boasting about. What she has long needed to focus on is arresting the declining operating performance. Yet she stated emphatically that the RA won’t have to make changes to the budget. Maybe her lawyers pieced together a multi-year drawdown of the sum to be paid to smooth out the ultimate impact. 

The RA franchise is the laughing stock of the rugby world. So transparent is the lack of accountability, woeful internal coordination and deteriorating financial results that it requires nothing more than a drastic overhaul if the entity is to thrive.

Former coach Michael Cheika let loose that it was no secret he had no relationship with the CEO and a very poor one with Chairman Cameron Clyne. This coming from the very individual running by far the biggest RA franchise. Despite possessing by far the worst performance record of any Wallabies coach, management persevered with a man who didn’t have a leg to stand on but cast aspersions on the executive team.

Therein lies the problem. RA can push all of the woke causes (e.g. LGBTQI+, gender equality) it likes, but if the ultimate end customer derives no value from it, it is a fruitless exercise which can’t escape the scrutiny of the free market come time to pay bills.

Castle may believe that this was a commercial decision for the sake of providing certainty. Had she done the right thing from the start she could have avoided getting embroiled in a scandal that has exposed the poor governance within.

Isn’t it odd that the LGBT activists are now attacking the very institution that set out to promote them – RA. CM has never thought much of his tweets but the reaction to them has been so over the top. The faux outrage mob finds oppression in everything.

Castle should resign and if she won’t the board should fire her despite her defiance against the bleeding obvious – she is in over her head. Fans won’t return with the status quo.

Get woke, go broke.

Black humour is a British trait but Brexit extensions just ain’t funny anymore

While black humour is definitely a strong British trait, there is nothing remotely funny about further delays to execute a Brexit deal. Despite the highest turnout in British voting history, UK legislators continue to show their employers utter contempt. We all know how King Arthur was eventually forced to deal with the Black Knight in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail despite denying the obvious.

While many Remainers argue that there was a whole swag of voters that didn’t show up on the day of the referendum – meaning the majority didn’t support Leave – they clearly showed by those actions that it didn’t mean enough to get to the polling booth. Too bad if they thought “remain” was a formality. It is a bit late to complain after the result. Tell that to Americans who believed in Hillary Clinton’s coronation three years ago. They can’t stop banging on about being robbed. That is how democracy works. Complacency is no excuse. Do we change the rules? Hand out mulligans?

It isn’t hard to work out what is at stake here. The EU wants to turn the UK into a colony. PM Boris Johnson’s latest deal was week-old leftovers from Theresa May’s disastrous proposal. Any deal short of “no” will come with so many caveats as to beggar belief.

To say that people were “duped/misled/lied to” in the lead up to the referendum is deceitfully condescending. People knew exactly what they were voting for. Now they see the very people sworn to represent them, going out of their way to cede more power to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. The deal, as it stands, is the type of document a vanquished nation would be forced to sign – unconditional surrender. Blind Freddie can see that.

The greater irony here is that if politicians are so cocksure they can read the mood of the nation to the extent of lecturing citizens that they don’t understand the implications of Brexit they should use that same chest-beating confidence to win by a landslide. Surely was such conviction so iron-clad, they would call an election immediately. Yet the Remain camp steadfastly refuses, hopefully using the time to lock in cushy EU jobs post being turfed from office.

Maybe a crushing victory in the Rugby World Cup final this weekend will be all Britons need to know that they are capable of greatness on their own.

I have no relationship with the CEO & not much with the chairman

Doesn’t this speak volumes? As Australian Wallabies coach Michael Cheika announced his resignation he let loose that it was no secret he had no relationship with the CEO Raelene Castle and a very poor one with Chairman Cameron Clyne.

How could it be that top management had no rapport with one of the most senior line managers of the flagship product? Is it any wonder the Folau debacle got to where it is? Incompetence reigns supreme.

For a leadership team that bangs on incessantly about inclusion, diversity and cohesion, Cheika’s remarks show how loose the grip was on the very people that needed to be the flashing beacon of the very institution Rugby Australia (RA) proclaims it instills. Where was the partnership?

Time for rebirth. The fans just want a winning team and to achieve that communication between the upper echelons of management and staff is key. As it stands it isn’t hard to fathom that there is next to zero at present. Hence why RA’s results (financial and game) are as abysmal as they are

For Cheika to launch a parting shot of that kind doesn’t smack of professionalism but at the same time it is probably the most truthful expose of the inner workings of the RA cabal.

Toxic employees are bad for any business. In most cases the resentment in the ranks coming from management’s tolerance of people who let poison fester within the workplace only worsens performance of the core. Eventually political cunning gives way to results that doesn’t match the bluster. The question is whether RA can be exorcised quickly enough to enable a proper healing? Given the insistence on being woke, that looks unlikely.

The values RA uphold may seem wonderfully progressive in theory but surely as a body seeking to uphold the pinnacle of sports and sportsmanship it should strive to understand where the future lies for the franchise. It isn’t yearning for diversity or participation prizes. Best look across the ditch for inspiration as to why the All Blacks are so strong. Just read their objective #1: to stay on top of the world. CM guesses NZ coach Steve Hansen has a wonderful bond with his board. You can’t fool kids who lose 100-0 that they played well either. Best start with grass roots that embody the spirit of competition. Embrace it. Then watch the fans flock back to the game.

Time we Cheiked out, DeClyned and binned the deflated Castle

The truculence of Australian Wallabies coach Michael Cheika’s is infamous. While he has never shied away from roughing up journalists at media press conferences (like a coach who might have an enviable win record) he couldn’t take a question on his future (around the 3-minute mark in the video). As if he wasn’t going to be asked such a question? His preparation was worse than that of the Wallabies. Cheika said, “Find a little compassion for people that are hurting!” Really? Feel sympathy for a bully? Harden up, snowflake!

Watching the Wallabies last night showed a team with little cohesion and the all too common inability to execute. Is it any wonder fans have grown disinterested. The stats speak to the disaster.

The Wallabies had 64% of possession (68% in 2H) and 62% of the territory (66% in 2H) yet conceded 18 turnovers to England’s 8. England made 172 tackles vs our 73. Clearly, when England had the ball they managed to execute, hence four tries (including two embarrassing intercepts) to one. Dismal.

Post the Rugby World Cup 2019, Cheika has a 50% overall win record. With the All Blacks, it was 17%. England @ 13%. Ireland @ 20%. Even Scotland was @ 50%. Other Wallabies coaches had the following win ratios:

Bob Dwyer – 64% win record

Alan Jones – 68%

Greg Smith – 63%

Rod Macqueen – 79%

Eddie Jones – 58%

John Connolly- 59%

Robbie Deans – 58%

Ewen Mackenzie- 50%

However, the problem in CM’s view isn’t the quality or talent of the players. Far from it. It is the management off the field. Aussie rugby is being systematically destroyed. CM has written before about the falling attendance and drifting profitability. Fans are clearly well and truly tired of the excuses.

It shouldn’t surprise us when Rugby Australia (RA) & NZ Rugby (NZR) reveal primary objectives. It shouldn’t surprise us when RA & NZR reveal primary objectives.

Objective 1 in the NZR 2018 Annual Report is “REMAINING ON TOP OF THE WORLD” (p.18)

Objective 1 in RA’s 2018 Annual Report is written as, “For rugby to continue to be a sport of choice in a rapidly changing society…community coaches are responsible…for creating fun, safe and inclusive environments” (p.10).

Between 2014 vs 2018, RA had the following statistics:

-Wallabies team costs (coach, support etc) +70% ($9.97m)

-Matchday revenue -42.1% ($20.17m)

-Sponsorships -11.5% ($28.23m)

-Player contracts +3.2% ($16.79m)

– Licensing revenue -12.9% ($1.67m)

Has the board reflected on what might be the problem?

It smacks of similar issues that plagued Cricket Australia (CA) leading into the cheating scandal. A culture that thought it was untouchable. The arrogance that they knew better. CA has finally had a cathartic cleansing at the board and coaching level. Results are now starting to show.

If RA wants a new coach, they’d be better off looking to one which promotes fluidity and allows improvisation. The problem with set plays is that it requires the opposition to fall into the trap the attacking team want to set. Simplicity is key.

This video of Coach Brian Clough is a great story of how one man built a team and took it from the bottom of 2nd division to the top of the Premier League. He won two European championships too. Listen to how his players had such great respect for Clough (from the 37th minute).

The three C’s of RA need to go – Chairman Clyne, CEO Castle and Coach Cheika.

Japanese consumer confidence waning as consumption tax hike starts tomorrow

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As the 10% consumption tax rate kicks in from October 1 in Japan from the current 8%, it is worth reflecting on the sorry state of consumer confidence. We are back below 2014 levels. While the sales of Japanese rugby jerseys and huge consumption of beer by gaijin at the Rugby World Cup may provide a brief respite, the trend remains distinctly negative.

Note that consumption tax has been the biggest portion of government revenue since 2014 and is on track to be 37% of the total in 2019, followed by individuals and the lazy corporate sector. Japan’s small-medium enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of employment, comprising 70% of the labour force and 97% of all corporations. Yet 70% of SMEs pay no tax at all.

From an individual level, the top 0.7% of earners in Japan pay 30% of the tax bill, up from 20% in 1974. The bottom 50% have seen their tax contribution fall from 10% to around 2.8%. The top 8% pay around three-quarters of the total.

With Japan running a ¥100 trillion (US$1tn) national budget, the Ministry of Finance needs to sell ¥40 trillion (US$400bn) every year to plug the budget deficit.  The hope is that the consumption tax will lower the dependence on having to debt finance to such extremes.