Rugby World Cup a turnoff for many

27 October 2015

As the All Blacks gear up for the Rugby World Cup final, spare a thought for the surprisingly high number of Kiwis who are holding their breath just waiting for the whole thing to be over.

Associate Professor Toni Bruce, from the Faculty of Education and Social Work, is conducting a survey on people’s experiences of and attitudes towards the Rugby World Cup, based on similar surveys in 2007 and 2011.

The sport sociologist, who is a rugby fan, says the results so far in 2015 reveal a group of New Zealanders, which she calls “the silent majority, who are not enamoured of the Rugby World Cup.

“These are people who are uninterested in rugby or the Rugby World Cup, including some who are actively resistant to what they see as rugby’s dominance of New Zealand’s cultural life,” she says.

“They don’t like what they see as the link to violence, the increasing commercialisation of the All Blacks, or the way that New Zealanders invest so much of their identity into sport.”

Dr Bruce says that the vast majority of survey respondents do not see winning the Cup as personally important. Only 37 percent reported that the Cup had personal importance to them, which is lower than in previous surveys.

Some who aren’t interested feel they have to keep their views to themselves, according to Dr Bruce. “In both 2015 and 2011, people wrote that they would be ‘secretly’ pleased or would have to ‘pretend to be sorry’ if the All Blacks lost,” she says. “And in 2011, some were accused of being traitors, unpatriotic or not true Kiwis for merely expressing a lack of interest.”

Dr Bruce says her research reveals that even if people don’t personally care whether the All Blacks win the Rugby World Cup, they assume that others do.

Almost three-quarters of survey respondents think other Kiwis want the All Blacks to win.  She says this difference can partly be attributed to the high level of media coverage: 85 percent think the media represents the Rugby World Cup as important and nearly two-thirds find it hard to avoid hearing about it.

In the 2015 survey to date 63 percent report making little or no effort to follow the Cup, which may reflect the timing and reduced access to free television coverage of live games.

“Some have complained about not being able to watch games because they can’t afford the Sky Television subscription,” Dr Bruce says.

“Others are finding the timing of games off-putting.” Despite the Government changing the laws to allow pubs to open early, almost 90 percent are watching at home and with their partner or family. Just over one-third are watching games alone.

In contrast to 2011 when the buzz of hosting the Rugby World Cup appeared to have converted some previous rugby haters, there is little evidence of rising interest in 2015, says Dr Bruce.

“Even after the All Blacks’ semi-final win, only 30 percent say they are making a lot of effort to watch the games.  Most people are reporting lower levels of fun and excitement compared to 2011.”

The survey also asks the question rugby-loving Kiwis don’t want to think about: how will we feel if we lose the Rugby World Cup?

Dr Bruce says her research suggests that if the All Blacks lose to Australia on Sunday, people’s responses will range widely, from despair to delight, as they have in the past.

“In 2015, many seem to think New Zealanders will look for someone or something to blame,” she says.

“All believe that some New Zealanders will be very disappointed or depressed if the All Blacks don’t win. And some people are concerned that domestic violence will rise. One described the likely response as ‘doom and gloom, followed by petulant rage, lashing out and playing the blame game with a vengeance’.”

However, Dr Bruce also sees evidence that people understand that reactions will be mixed. “As one male wrote, ‘I suspect there will be a wide range of reactions -- cold indifference, private glee, utter despair, sober acceptance (my favourite)’.”

To take part in the 20-minute survey visit:

Editors’ notes:

  • 131 people completed the 2007 survey.
  • 267 people completed the 2011 survey.
  • So far 197 people have completed the 2015 survey.


Anna Kellett, Media Relations Adviser