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On the World Cup, and the media’s buy-in to the national mood of elation

June 22nd, 2010

rugby world cup advertising

Well, New Zealand made a splash in the Fifa World Cup coverage yesterday – and I don’t mean via the draw with Italy. No, the Guardian was reporting how New Zealand is being cited as a justification for the bizarre and draconian decision to criminally prosecute the Dutch women who dressed in orange to promote a non-Fifa sponsored beer company. Potentially, the Dutch women could be facing a six-month jail sentence, and New Zealand is being cited by Fifa as a justification. That’s thanks to the ridiculous major events law that then –Sports Minister Trevor Mallard got passed a few years ago, to protect the commercialization of rugby at our own World Cup. Here’s what the Guardian said yesterday:

Placed on South Africa’s statute book in 2006 was something called the 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa Special Measures Act. The women in orange are accused of contravening two sections of this law, namely the parts that prohibit “unauthorised commercial activities inside an exclusion zone” and “enter[ing] into a designated area while in unauthorised possession of a commercial object”.

What is so radical about the legislation, though, is the fact that it makes such activity a criminal rather than civil offence. Not only does this arguably debase what it is to be a crime, but it contravenes rights enshrined in South Africa’s constitution. In March, Fifa successfully pursued a low- cost airline for using pictures of footballs, vuvuzelas, and stadiums in its advertising, causing a South African legal expert to voice amazement at the “excesses” of the World Cup legislation, and to lament the choice the government made “to placate Fifa” at the expense of freedom of expression.

Fifa praises South Africa for adopting this draconian stance – as well it might. It’s all very pour encourager les autres. Yet, when it is pointed out that even the Chinese government stopped short of actually criminalising this kind of marketing intrusion at the Beijing games, a Fifa spokesman declares that similar legislation is in place in New Zealand ready for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

Fantastic…so, New Zealand is leading the race to the bottom here. We are actually being worse than the autocratic regime in China, when it comes to policing the freedom of expression of our citizens in order to ensure that the IRB can gouge the maximum commercial gains possible from our national game. As with Fifa and South Africa, it is the host nation that provides the infrastructure – and in our case, runs the event at a loss – while the Fifas and the IRBs rake off billions from commercial franchises and media coverage rights.

In South Africa, Fifa has apparently guaranteed South Africa a profit of $80 million dollars from a World Cup that will provide Fifa with a $3.2 billion dollar profit.

Obviously, this is mere crumbs from the table for South Africa. Yet has New Zealand even sought, let alone gained any such guarantee about the bottom line for the Rugby World Cup from the IRB? If not, why not? And if so, why are we accepting and budgeting for a loss?

Oh, the Italy vs New Zealand game itself? The Hollywoods being thrown on both sides were pretty apt, because the match unfolded like a Rocky film, with us in the Stallone role of the plucky underdog. Still on our feet at the final whistle, despite the best efforts of those poncy, posturing, dirty playing Italians and an allegedly biased and impressionable Guatemalan referee. Heroic defender, All Whites captain and objective observer Ryan Nelsen was certainly given a lot of space here to bag the referee:

But Nelsen says the Guatemalan referee got sucked in by an Italian dive when Tommy Smith was judged to have pulled down Daniele de Rossi in the box. He says it was a ridiculous decision and even the Italians could not believe a penalty was given.

“It wasn’t a goal,” Nelsen said after the game. “It was a ridiculous call and I think the guys will be disappointed that we ended up drawing because it was a dodgy goal.”

In the wake of this game, the Otago Daily Times seriously pondered whether our entire national identity may have changed.

One can understand why sports fans might have seen it in those terms, but the collusion of the media in this fairytale – and I don’t mean that in a good way – was astonishing. Yes the world media did find the draw “stunning” and “amazing”. The Guardian and other outlets did however also raise the question in two separate articles that Shane Smeltz may well have been offside – though it also felt this was borderline – and that the New Zealanders had several times in the first 25 minutes been elbowing their opponents in what we tend to call ‘physical” play, when we do it. This from the Guardian’s live coverage of the game:

14 min Fallon is booked for putting an arm into Cannavaro’s face. He’d eased one into Zambrotta’s earlier, and the Italian complaints may have got him booked. Not that he can really complain….

19 min Italy are having all the ball, as you’d expect, but they’ve only really created chances from set pieces so far. This couldn’t happen, surely?

20 min Cannavaro is down after taking an elbow from Killen in the breadbasket. It wasn’t a full elbow, but he definitely looked for him and New Zealand have been pretty physical. More of the same please. There’s not nearly enough thuggery in football any more.

As for the Italian penalty and the decision by the ref? As this video shows, there was a foul by New Zealand – and yes, the Italians did then make a meal of it, but that doesn’t negate the fact a foul was committed, leaving the referee no option. Penalties are awarded for fouls, not for the quality of the acting afterwards. Shirt pulling, like being offside or being pregnant, is not something that you can do only a little bit.

The result of Rory Fallon’s… errr… physical game (and yellow card) was that New Zealand then had to carry him as something of a passenger for much of the second half, lest he incur a red card and be out for the Paraguay game. The interesting outcome of the media’s patriotic decision to buy into – and not report objectively on – the mood of national elation was that a good deal of what was actually being said and written about the game overseas went unreported here. Any info that contradicted the heroic narrative was either downplayed, or ignored.

Especially interesting, given that coach Rikki Herbert all but conceded the Smeltz’offside, in this ‘you win some, you lose some’ comment carried by CBS Sports:

He [Ricki Herbert] revealed that he was concerned that the attention that referee Carlos Batres was paying to Fallon might see the big man sent off and that’s why he was substituted despite a robust performance.”That’s why I took him off. I thought he was getting a raw deal from the ref and I wanted to save his tournament,” he said. Meanwhile, Herbert said he hadn’t formed an opinion on whether Smeltz’s goal was off-side, or if Daniele De Rossi has dived for the Italian penalty.

“Sometimes you get the luck and sometimes you don’t,” he said.

Any New Zealanders still feeling hard done (by the ref, or by the Italian histrionics) should spare a thought for Chile. Not only is Chile playing some of the most exciting football of the competition, it does not qualify even after winning two games already and needs to win a third – against Spain ! – to progress. New Zealand, on the other hand, will get through if it wins only one game.


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    1. 6 Responses to “On the World Cup, and the media’s buy-in to the national mood of elation”

    2. By Matt on Jun 22, 2010 | Reply

      Actually, our law is nowhere near as awful as that in South Africa.
      1) There is no provision for privatised courts. Any action will take place through the ordinary court system, unless McCully and Power are going to change things before the RWC. If they do, it’s not the Major Events Act that covers it.
      2) The maximum penalty is a $150,000 fine. There is no prison time.
      3) The Dutch women would’ve been immune to prosecution as they were not the advertiser. The guilty party is the brewery, and it would’ve been the brewery that had to be brought before the courts.

      So yes, we do have laws against ambush marketing in place before the RWC, but they’re nothing like what’s in place in South Africa. No private courts, no potential prison terms for people who wear clothing that’s branded with a non-sponsor’s marks.

    3. By peterlepaysan on Jun 22, 2010 | Reply

      Excuse me? We have not lost two games
      with a round ball.

      This may well be a source of NZ media jubilation.

      I am not sure how much us unwashed public care.

      If the soccer/football team actually win a game
      some interest and joy would be understandable.

      The hoo ha about two no losses reveals more about the immaturity and stupidity of the media hacks.

      Most of us have a real life to get on with.

      (And no I do not care that I used a preposition to end a sentence with.)

      So, there!

    4. By Neil on Jun 22, 2010 | Reply

      I feel a movement coming on.
      This is easily dealt with. Boycott the official companies.
      Don’t drink Budweiser. (Who would, anyway?) Drink Pepsi instead of Coke. (One’s as bad as the other.) Forget Adidas next time you want a pair of shoes. (New Balance have better lasts for New Zealand feet, to boot.)
      The list goes on.
      We do the same next year the moment some RWC clown decides to ping someone for not doing as the multi-national bosses demand.
      They’ll hate it.

    5. By andrew nichols on Jun 22, 2010 | Reply

      Couldnt agree more on the dreadful unbalanced nonsense about the AWs Italy game. I went looking for what the “rest of the World” was saying about NZ (European newspaper sites) and it was interesting just how little there really was and then how selective and in many cases the soccophantic NZ media have been in reporting those few articles. We really dont rate as anything more than a minor curiosity. most press is on the poor spectacle the Cup has been so far and the failure and dissent amongst the Euro heavyweights.

      Andrew N. Christchurch

    6. By Sam on Jun 23, 2010 | Reply

      So if I go to a game, wearing my own T-shirt that happens to have a non-authorised logo, I will be arrested? That, combined with ridiculous ticket prices, will ensure I will stay home.
      The stands will be half empty at the RWC next year and it will be the IRB and NZRFU fault.
      It will be cheaper for me to watch the games on “free to air” TV and more comfortable as well and I can enjoy a Tui or a Speights without being arrested.

    7. By martin on Jul 17, 2010 | Reply

      Well too little too late.

      But congratulations Gordon on being the official place for disgruntled rugby fans to head to complain as mr Nichols and Lepaysan have done again.

      The ref is an A-grade twat and Ryan Nelsen

      -yes Mr Nichols that would be the New Zealand captain twice listed in the top ten performances by the Guardian and by Soccernet in its team of the tournament ahead of the Brazillian captain Lucio-

      was correct in his assessment.

      Quoting from soccernet:

      “New Zealand were incensed when Rory Fallon was booked for catching Cannavaro in the face and replays did suggest contact had been minimal.”

      The penalty was a soft one- the player was not prevented from making a run, had no chance of reaching the ball or scoring a goal and was not actually brought down by the contact.

      If you want to see actual dirty place as opposed ah, yes physical contest- I suggest you look up De Rossi’s challenge on McBride from the 2006 world cup. A foul as you suggest is a foul.

      The ref went on to ref Spain v Paraguay where the refereeing was again interesting with penalties retaken or not retaken as his pedantry ruined a match.

      As our national blog of record I can’t allow this lack of one-eyed support to go unchallenged.

      I would also suggest that mr Nichols and lepaysand would get more traction for bagging media hackery if they turned up and made the same comment after almost any of your other blogs.

      NZ 1
      Italy 1!

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