Forget the fans – it’s the sponsors calling the tune on the All Blacks series defeat to Ireland

From All Black fans there is a full range of adjectives being used to describe the series loss to Ireland along with many colourful descriptions of coach Ian Foster.

I played rugby at school (getting into the trials for the third XV at Napier Boys’ High School was the peak of my rugby career – I didn’t get selected) and coached 6th grade rugby as a teacher but I’m still surprised at the lack of maturity in so many rugby fan reactions to All Black losses. Why would so many people live their lives through the successes and failures of a national sports team?

I won’t be surprised if we are told the series loss resulted in a sharp spike in domestic violence incidents.

Unfortunately, it’s always been that way. The country has never gone beyond adolescent reactions to All Black losses. Is this as big as we are? Probably.

The reaction of Rugby Union Chief Executive Mark Robinson however comes from a different perspective.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson took the rare step of issuing a strongly-worded press statement on Sunday, saying the series was under immediate review.

“Congratulations to the Irish team for their well-deserved win last night but clearly the performance across the series for the All Blacks was not acceptable as we know they have reflected,” Robinson said.

He didn’t say disappointed or frustrated or dissatisfied or upset or unhappy. He said the All Black series loss was “not acceptable”.

Seriously? Yes.

Robinson is saying that elite rugby has moved beyond sport. It is a business and it is “not acceptable” to the All Black sponsors that the team has lost this series. No sponsor wants to be associated with losing. They have invested heavily in the All Black brand as a winning brand and they expect the team to win. They have no loyalty to the game, the fans or the rugby union. Their loyalty is to the financial investment they have made.

Now they will be seriously upset. Hence the “immediate review” into the series loss.

Elite rugby can be described as many things – sport is not the main one.

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