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The Contested Terrain of the New Zealand All Blacks

Rugby, Commerce, and Cultural Politics in the Age of Globalization


Jay Scherer and Steve Jackson

In 2011, New Zealand rugby fans erupted in celebration as the All Blacks narrowly defeated France to win the Rugby World Cup – the team’s first title since New Zealand hosted the inaugural tournament in 1987. In the years between these victories, the sport of rugby has been radically transformed from its amateur roots to a professional, global entertainment ‘product’. This book explores these developments and focuses initially on the New Zealand Rugby Union’s key deals with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and global sportswear giant Adidas in the 1990s. The new pay-per-view era has curtailed the traditional ‘viewing rights’ of rugby fans to have live, free-to-air access to All Blacks test matches on public television. Adidas, meanwhile, has relentlessly commodified aspects of national heritage and indigenous identity in pursuit of local and global markets while exploiting labour in developing countries. Escalating merchandise costs and ticket prices have, at the same time, pushed the sport further out of the reach of ordinary New Zealanders. All of these issues, however, have not gone uncontested, and the authors argue that rugby remains a contested terrain in the face of a new set of limits and pressures in the global economy.


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Chapter Ten Producing Cultural Intermediaries and the Policing of Electronic Spaces


of Sporting Consumption As we noted in the previous chapter, a growing body of literature critically examines the production and consumption of digital culture as various interest groups compete to establish dominance over new global informa- tion and communication networks (Barney, 2004; Castells, 2001; Hardt and Negri, 2000; Poster, 2001a; Schiller, 1999; Slevin, 2001). Indeed, as Hassan explains, ‘it seems almost unimaginable to envisage a form of capital- ism, economic globalization and much of social and cultural life that does not have digital networks at its centreless centre’ (2004, p. 10). It is not surprising, therefore, that countless sport organizations and corporations are using a range of new media technologies to rapidly communicate and interact with af f luent consumers and global sporting fans who are regarded as the most ‘rabid of Internet users’ (Grover, 1998, p. 155). Inherent in such processes are the broader transformation of both the labour routines of those who produce electronic corporate sporting sites,1 and the consump- tion practices of networked sports fans who seek instantaneous information about sports teams, players, and other digitized sporting products (Real, 2006). As such, we are witnessing a meteoric rise in the development of interactive websites, online games, fantasy sport leagues, and integrated commercial messages that can be personalized on websites and mobile 1 For example, Real (2006) notes that by 1999, ESPN employed more than 100 edito- rial staf f and perhaps double that many technical staf f to work on In a similar vein, in...

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