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England's early exit bad for RWC business

2015-10-05 20:45
Chris Robshaw (AP)

London - The early departure of the England rugby team from their own World Cup will be mourned by broadcaster ITV and bookmakers who wanted the host nation to help build interest in the tournament for the rest of the month.

Defeat to Australia on Saturday meant England had the ignominy of being the first former winner to be knocked out at the pool stages of the tournament, leading to worries that English fans could turn off from rugby and cut back related spending on gambling and beer.

Some 11 million people tuned in to watch the game on host broadcaster ITV, which paid tens of millions of pounds for the rights to broadcast the competition, and that figure is likely to slip for future matches.

"It's taken the shine off it for ITV but it's still been a pretty successful tournament," said Phil Hall, who helps negotiate the placing of adverts for ad agency Mediacom.

Although most adverts are pre-booked weeks in advance, some slots are sold only at the last minute. An England run to the semi-final or final would have helped drum up a big premium on the prices paid for advertising spots in and around those games, Hall said.

Hall put the price of England's exit at around £1m a game for ITV.

An ITV spokesman declined to comment but noted the broadcaster had enjoyed large audiences for matches involving other British and Irish teams, with a peak of 5.3 million viewers watching Scotland versus South Africa on Saturday.

Wales and Ireland have both qualified for the quarter-finals while Scotland remain in contention.

The impact of England's defeat could be felt more by British bookmakers, who had seen record sums placed on England games since the tournament began on September 18, and by the nation's pubs.

"Going out in the group stage is an absolute disaster," said Rupert Adams, a spokesman for bookmaker William Hill. "Obviously people as a whole potentially lose interest in the competition." The final is not until October 31.

Adams said that the England-Australia match was thought to be the biggest betting game in the history of rugby. The bookmaker now expected revenue to fall by 20 percent to 25 percent for the quarter-finals.

"It was a great result for us on the day, but it was short-term gain for long-term pain," he said.

England's unexpected demise could prove more damaging than a similar exit from a soccer tournament since supporters are less likely to swap their allegiance to other teams, he said.

A long run in the tournament for England's rugby team, who won the tournament in 2003, could also have helped to create a feelgood factor in the country, boosting business at pubs and supermarkets from those fans wanting to make a day of it.

However the British Beer and Pub Association, which expects British and foreign rugby fans to drink 25 million pints over the tournament, did not expect any immediate fall in demand.

"The industry is really benefiting from the huge number of overseas visitors, and people supporting other home nations, as the tournament has certainly captured the public's imagination," Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds said.

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