Sunday, July 17, 2011

Argentina 2023 would offer great times for matches

Argentina 2023 stands out as an increasingly positive option when considering geographical location. Argentina´s location in the Americas with the rugby markets of Oceania to the west and Europe and Southern Africa to the East enables the country the luxury of producing a match schedule which would give teams favorable playing times. The country´s centrality to these markets allows for a genuine spreading out of matches to taylor to the demands of the market. 

With the advent of professionalism rugby has had to adjust to provide for the preferred demands of the market. This has seen more matches played at night to cater to the demands of pay-tv and an evolving audience. In places like Australia and New Zealand this has meant day matches are rare and night matches are the norm. The broadcasters believe it is better for business to have matches at latter times. It also enables matches to be broadcast live in the European and African markets at better times than by having games played earlier.

For France 2007 a number of matches had 9:00pm kick-off´s (local time) which meant for the best possible viewing hours for a global audience. France vs Argentina to open the tournament was 9pm local time which translated into 9pm in Johannesburg, 8pm in London, 4pm in Buenos Aires, 3pm in Toronto, midday in Los Angeles, 7am in Auckland and 5am in Sydney.

The match delivered a key match at globally accessible hours and an earlier kick-off would have meant lower viewing numbers. The first game of the second day of the tournament took place at 1.45pm the following day between New Zealand and Italy. The reason behind the early kick-off being to meet the needs, as best as possible, of the audience. It meant 11:45pm kick-off in New Zealand which is far better than a 3am kick-off.

For Rugby World Cup 2011, New Zealand has tried to do the same thing, as much as possible. Unfortunately for the tournament organizers there is a major problem which complicates this - New Zealand´s global position. The country provides for difficult schedules given its location in the South Pacific Ocean. Matches starting at 9pm work well for France as the corresponding time is 11am and thus 10am in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

There is, however, a problem of matches on the same day. On Sunday September 11 South Africa vs Wales had a 9pm kickoff and took place after Ireland vs USA and Australia vs Italy. The 3:30pm kick-off time for Australia vs Italy meant Italians wanting to watch their team live had to tune in at 5:30am. Viewers in Ireland had a 7am kick-off for their teams match while viewers in New York had to watch the match at 2am.

The key match of Argentina vs England on the second day of the competition kicked-off at 5:30am in Buenos Aires and 9:30am in London. The time was chosen as being the best possible time to suit all markets. An earlier kick-off would have been negative for both countries playing in the match. Scotland vs Romania was played on the same day with a 1pm kick-off which corresponded to 2am in Glasgow and 4am in Bucharest which makes live viewing tough for fans of both sides. 

Argentina´s time zone provides opportunities for friendlier match times than both New Zealand 2011 and France 2007. The time zone means that tournament organizers would have the luxury of a genuine three day weekend with Friday night matches involving one or more of the likes of Australia, Fiji, Japan, New Zealand or Tonga corresponding to superior schedule options.

For the first time in history, the Rugby World Cup could have two matches take place on a Friday which would be in the interests of everybody to better distribute the games and for teams to then have greater rest time between matches. Rather than having four matches on a Saturday and three on a Sunday, it would be possible to have two on a Friday, three on a Saturday and three on a Sunday. 9pm in Buenos Aires would be midday in New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga, 10am in Sydney and 9am in Tokyo.

9pm in Argentina would mean 2am in Paris and therefore not an option but a 5pm kick-off would mean 10pm in France and 9pm in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Having a match such as New Zealand vs France kick-off at 5pm would work well by being 8am in New Zealand and 10pm in France. In other words, Argentina´s time zone is not only favorable for all major rugby markets but it also means finding a balance between two powerful teams from vastly different time zones is possible and friendlier than in all previous Rugby World Cup´s.

Afternoon kick-offs are favorable for European and African sides while evening kick-off´s are favorable for teams from Oceania (including Japan) and sides from the America´s could easily play in either the afternoon or evening. As such, a schedule could be produced with minimal matches played at times that disadvantage viewers from a particular country. Consider the following sample draw for the opening weekend with the same 20 teams from 2011 distributed fairly according to global rugby trends and with IRB World Rankings being taken into account. Times are local and thus 15 hours behind New Zealand and 4 hours behind the United Kingdom (GMT - Greenwich Mean Time).

Sample Draw for RWC 2023

Pool A - Australia, Fiji, France, Namibia, USA
Pool B - Argentina, Canada, England, Italy, Russia 
Pool C - Georgia, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Tonga
Pool D - Japan, New Zealand, Samoa, Romania, Wales

Sample Match Schedule for the Opening Week of RWC 2023

Friday September 8, 2023 Argentina vs England, Buenos Aires, 6:30pm
Friday September 8, 2023 Australia vs Fiji, Córdoba, 8:30pm

Saturday September 8, 2023 Ireland vs Georgia, Mendoza, 2:30pm
Saturday September 8, 2023 France vs USA, Rosario, 4:30pm
Saturday September 8, 2023 New Zealand vs Wales, La Plata, 6:30pm

Sunday September 9, 2023 South Africa vs Scotland, Avalleneda, 2:30pm
Sunday September 9 2023 Italy vs Russia, Santa Fé, 5:00pm
Sunday September 9 2023 Japan vs Samoa, Tucumán,7:30pm

Tuesday September 10 2023 England vs Canada, Rosario, 5:30pm
Tuesday September 10 2023 Fiji vs Namibia, Salta, 7:30pm

Wednesday September 11 2023 Wales vs Romania, Mar del Plata, 5:30pm
Wednesday September 11 2023 Ireland vs Tonga, San Juan, 7:30pm

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