Méadhbh Crowley takes a closer look at the inequality of the ongoing Rugby World Cup.
Listening to the radio last week I heard the unbelievable success of Australia against Uruguay, winning 65-3. It was not the score that shocked me, seeing as Australia are one of the best teams in the world, but the idea that Australia beat an actual bunch of amateurs, with 27 members of the Uruguay team (95% of their squad) actually being amateurs.
For these amateurs rugby involves a few hours of training in the morning or evening before heading off to work to actually earn a living, which makes the lives of our pampered Irish team a stark contrast. For professional teams the Rugby World Cup (RWC) means sponsorship deals, bonuses, massages and relaxing team outings to celebrate wins. But for the amateurs, it means something quiet different, working extra hours to ensure they can afford to leave their families without a steady flow of income for six weeks and making sure they actually have a job to come back to once the tournament ends.
This RWC is one of the first tournaments which the Uruguayan Rugby Union has had access to extra funding to pay the players. Their head coach Pablo Lemoine commented: “We’ve been giving some money to some players to help them with their work, to make a full time job a bit more part time.” Lemoine continued “It helps a bit but it’s not a salary; we don’t have enough money to pay salaries. It’s only been this year. This is the first time we’ve received money to play rugby.”
Similarly Namibia’s team is made up of engineers, diamond traders, farmers, construction workers, and a dentist, as well as captain Jacques Burger, the Saracens loose forward who is one of the few overseas-based professionals in the side.“It’s definitely about these guys who work eight to five, they’ve offered up so much. They are incredible” said Burger.“They wake up four, five in the morning, start training at six, have to to go to work all day and come back in the evening, six to half seven, which is so challenging.”
How is it fair to pit amateurs against professionals? Professionals who are being paid substantial amounts of money to sacrifice their bodies for the entertainment of their fans, who if injured will receive the best care in the world within minutes. While the amateurs who too make the same sacrifices, if they become injured would not receive the same care which could be detrimental to their livelihoods and leave their families at risk of losing everything?
The RWC has ultimately unveiled the differing economic backgrounds of it’s competing countries, richer countries like Ireland, England, Australia and New Zealand who can afford to pay and provide professional statuses to their players, while poorer countries have been bound to amateur status due to their lack of resources. Until the Rugby Union can invest more in helping these countries break out from their amateur statuses, the RWC will never be an equal tournament for all involved