Trial By Media

Derek Wyatt MP snubs the present footballing obsession and spends time with some rugby magazines
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The Independent Online
EVEN RUGBY magazines haven't been able to resist the plague of Fleet Street - new owners and new editors have come and gone almost as quickly as new England caps. And given that rugby union has finally developed into an international game whereas rugby league has not, despite trying, the surprise is that on the market at present are more publications to do with league than union.

Union has two rivals, both monthlies, Rugby World and Rugby News. League has the old chestnut, Open Rugby, but can also boast weeklies - Rugby League Week from Oz (no marks for originality there) and the news-sheets Rugby Leaguer (ugh) plus Rugby League Express and Super League Weekly. Fanzines come thick and fast - London Calling (Broncos) and The Greatest Game are two that I have encountered.

The Web sites are poor and need desperate attention.

Rugby World comes with a badly designed booklet called Home Nations tours Down Under. The magazine has been the leader of the pack for three decades but, apart from Peter Bills' time as editor, has been a one-dimensional read. Plenty of colour pictures plainly laid out on glossy paper are no longer page-turners and when this is coupled with reviews and accounts of games that have been well-dissected in the broadsheets or seen on TV, you better understand why the publication has found it hard to attract a substantially new readership in the way that the general interest titles such as Loaded or GQ have done.

I watched the Canterbury v Auckland Super 12 final go to the wire two weeks ago but RW still ekes a four-page review of the semi-finals and an up-date on all games so far. Thank heavens, though, for the writing of Ian Stafford and Frank Keating.

Inside Rugby looks and feels like an old Labour version of Rugby World. In essence, that is the problem in this rather restricted market. There is not a single piece of illumination in the mag as tired hacks write pieces in their sleep. With only 12 pages of advertising, it may not survive the year.

Open Rugby has been solidly dependable since it was founded in 1976. It badly needs a dose of Quark design on the Mac to bring its typesetting and lay-out into the 20th century. A re-design would help it widen its appeal.

The cover is fussy and clouded with messages, it is hard to know what the main story is and - given the average 20-second buy in WH Smith - must lose it customers by the score.

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