Didn’t get to see the Saints v Leinster match, probably just as well! So I thought I’d re-post this rant from last January on the need for a Leinster Rugby radio station…I reckon it would have attracted many a listener on Saturday afternoon. By the way, boring fact of the day – “listener” is an anagram of “Leinster”.
Last week I posted a tweet that read like this :
Every competitive Leinster game should be covered live on radio at very least. RT if you agree.#rugbyunited
— JL Pagano (@HarpinOnRugby) January 7, 2012
Even last night it was still being retweeted, and so far the total amount of people to do it stands at 72. Not exactly a scientific poll or a petition with a thousand signatures, but still it shows I'm not alone in thinking it.
But it wasn't all agreement from the twittersphere. I took a bit of flak on two fronts, though I feel both were based on mistaken assumptions over what I was suggesting. Since it's hard to outline complex ideas over Twitter, I guess I'd better use more traditional means to explain myself.
The first type of negative reaction I got was along the lines of “Why should only Leinster get the radio station? If THEY get it, why can't the other provinces???”
To explain this I'd first have to go back to the original tweet. Does it say anything about WHO should do the broadcasting? Thought not.
I suppose we can forgiven for thinking, especially with recent events, that all matters pertaining to the provinces should and would be controlled by the “mother ship”, ie the IRFU. But just for the sake of argument, what if this was something Leinster Rugby could organise themselves?
The reason for the wording of my original statement was that I was trying to see if there would be a market for the product I'm suggesting. Well the way I see it we actually have hard data on this – over 14,000 season tickets at the RDS. You have to assume that all those people forked out their hard-earned shekels because when Leinster are playing, they want to know how they're getting on. And the way we sell out the Aviva Stadium for the bigger matches, it's clear there's a much wider market out there on top of that core following.
So since the team plays as many matches away as they do at home and not everyone can travel to Treviso, Bath and Montpellier on a regular basis, surely all these people will still want to follow their heroes?
Of course the ideal place to catch a game you can't get to is television, and here we come to the second assumption people made when I posted that original tweet – that I was only floating the radio notion because I was craving English-language commentary when a Leinster game was on TG4.
Well first off, truth be told, the cúpla focal don't bother me as much as they seem to bother other people. But having said that, if there does happen to be an audio feed, as there was on New Year's Day when Leinster played Connacht, I'm happy to avail of it, even if Michael Corcoran doesn't happen to know that it was Noel Reid who was Ian Madigan's blood replacement NOT John Cooney, who most Leinster fans will know is a scrum-half.
But my argument for complete radio coverage goes way, way beyond the desire to have a commentary feed when Leinster happen to be on TG4. My real argument is that I believe there's a clear market for it every single time they take to the field. Sure, that game in Galway was on RTE Radio and so is today's match in Glasgow, but last week when Leinster were in Cardiff, for example, there was nothing.
OK here's the bit of my rant I have been dreading, because I'm going to give an example of what they do in the USA. I say this because having been born there yet lived in Ireland for 34 years, I know what kind of reaction I get when I try to compare the two cultures. No doubt there are those who presume that if I suggest we adopt one model they use over there, we must also do everything the same way...and before you know it we have cheerleaders, multiple vendors selling hotdogs in the stands and a hundred-fold increase in the amount of merchandise for sale.
But that's not the case. I agree they tend to be over the top on t'other side of the pond. Even with their radio coverage of sporting events – everything, and I mean EVERYTHING from the pre-game show to the reading of the starting lineups to the interview with the coach is “brought to you by” a separate company. With my radio station idea, I'm not suggesting anywhere NEAR this level of excess.
What I am pointing out from the USA is that as far as I know, ALL professional teams have their own radio network. And it's just that, a “network”. It's not a case of individual stations producing each broadcast...there's a central crew covering every game, and it's up to the local radio stations to pick it up if they want.
THAT'S what I think would work for Leinster. Create a dedicated “channel”, call it, say, LeinsterRugbyFM, and provide coverage of every game. At the very least, stream the broadcast online. But if RTE or NewsTalk decided they wanted to cover it, instead of using their own commentators & staff, they simply carry the feed. And if the national broadcasters aren't interested, then I can't see why a Dublin station (maybe, dare I say it, one of the stations that has sponsored Leinster rugby for the past few years?) together with the likes of KLCR and East Coast FM can also carry it if they feel there's a market for it in their area.
Alternatively, if the big boys would rather use their own staff, since it's for a national audience they could use their own "neutral" commentary team while LeinsterRugbyFM could still do its own feed, with analysis of course from the blue provinces' perspective.
Of course such a venture couldn't pay for itself. But if the listenership market is there, surely advertisers would be falling over themselves to want their name tacked on to the coverage? Not at USA levels, of course, but I for one wouldn't mind hearing the commentator say “you're listening to LeinsterRugbyFM's coverage of today's match, which has been brought to you by [insert company name here]” just a few times during a broadcast. And as for other ads, I'd say the best way to go would be charge the individual stations a fee for the broadcast and let them air their own ads during the breaks.
And when we're talking about the market for this product I'm suggesting, I'm not just talking about aiming at those fans who AREN'T at the game itself. What about those who are? I know you can see the action, but in a sport like rugby union you certainly can't have a handle on everything that's happening, especially if it's way down the other end of the pitch. I don't know how many times I've had to wait till I got home to find out why one player was carded or why another was denied a try.
So maybe if a decent Wifi service could be provided at the RDS (which they really should have anyway at this stage) those of us with smartphones could also listen to the streaming, plus if there is an actual radio broadcast I'm sure there would be a market for a tiny pocket wireless with the Leinster logo on it to carry the feed? Just like that you've added a few thousand to your listenership and I doubt the advertisers would mind that!
These are all things I believe would work for Leinster Rugby, and I believe it because I'm a season-ticket holder at the RDS. With my original suggestion I wasn't saying it's a service I feel should be “denied” other provinces, I'm just not that familiar with those markets.
I'd be pretty confident, however, that something similar would work at Thomond Park, for example. But my point is that there are four provinces dealing with four distinct markets so this would be something they should be able to organise themselves, as, by extension, could clubs in other countries in their own catchment areas.
It was also put to me that this is something that could work in GAA & soccer on these shores. I'm not so sure about that...the high-profile GAA matches happen only a handful of times per year and as for soccer, well with over half a dozen teams in Dublin alone, I doubt any would have the fan base to justify it, even Shamrock Rovers. But if they do, then good luck to them.
We have to realise what a big-time outfit Leinster Rugby actually is. And I don't just mean by results on the park, I mean as a brand. Maybe the IRFU are right in that the bulk of its revenue comes from the top of the tree, ie the national team, but since Leinster play week-in, week-out pretty much straight through from mid-August to mid-May every season, there's surely a decent amount of wedge to be gained from providing a service I believe people want.
Of course, what I know about setting up a radio station you could write in the Apple logo on the back of my iPhone. My suggestion, however, is based on a belief that our reluctance to act on things like this is constrained by barriers that can be easily lifted by getting the right people together and giving them license to get it done.
What do you think – if LeinsterRugbyFM were built, would listeners come? JLP
PS : the logo in the lead-off picture was one from an actual station that was called Radio Leinster - it's now known as BreezeFM as far as I know.