James Lawton: Rugby in need of terrestrial showcase

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The Independent Online

Anyone hooked up to Sky television can tell you that Wasps' victory over Munster in the Heineken Cup semi-final was a stupendous advertisement for the oval ball game. Unfortunately, there were less than 100,000 paid-up witnesses, which calls into question once again the wisdom of a developing sport taking short-term profit at the cost of a huge captive audience.

Anyone hooked up to Sky television can tell you that Wasps' victory over Munster in the Heineken Cup semi-final was a stupendous advertisement for the oval ball game. Unfortunately, there were less than 100,000 paid-up witnesses, which calls into question once again the wisdom of a developing sport taking short-term profit at the cost of a huge captive audience.

Last year the BBC figures for the Leinster-Perpignan semi-final, a far less compelling dish for English viewers, was a highly respectable 1.4m, or a 12.3 market share. If Wasps-Munster had gone terrestrial, an audience of three million-plus could have been comfortably anticipated.

Rugby Union likes to talk about its full-on embrace of the demands of professionalism. The point that is being overlooked is that the best professionals invariably see the big picture.

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