I've never really been a massive rugby fan, but I was looking forward to watching Scotland play against the All Blacks at Murrayfield at the weekend.
I’ve shied away from rugby since my first match in senior school. Seeing the legendary team might increase my interest in the game, I thought.
They might overcome a barrier that had been in place for some time. My school had a reputation for rugby excellence - winning trophies and accolades in the North West, as well as keeping the A&E unit at Blackpool Victoria Hospital supplied with a endless procession of broken arms and collar bones.
I remember starting school on the Monday and our first double “games" was on the Friday. Throughout that week the teachers piled on the hype. “Four days to go till rugby.
Tomorrow, lads, you hit the field.” Friday came and I was really excited. The teacher described rugby in the most simplistic terms. "Simply grab the ball and try and run to the other side of the field and don't let anyone stop you."
Sounded easy, and when I suddenly found myself holding the ball I did what I had been told and I started running like the clappers to get to the other side of the field.
Unfortunately a large and scarily muscled (for a twelve year old that is) lad was in my way and he didn't want to let me pass. He stopped me by throwing me into the air. And I smashed back down to earth, literally, breaking my arm in three places.
So for the next three months while my classmates learned the proper rules of rugby, I sat in a classroom nursing a plaster cast and planning how to avoid rugby once I had recovered. Yes, it was definitely cross country and badminton for me from then on.
So as kick off at Murrayfield approached I was intent on banishing the negative thoughts from that painful day and soaking up the atmosphere. The All Blacks appeared, swiftly followed by the Scottish team, quickly followed by a tearfully patriotic playing of the respective national anthems.
Then the Kiwis burst into their powerful, terrifying Haka. How intimidating it must be to have to stand opposite these guys as they perform this brutish show of power, knowing that at any minute they will be charging at you with tank-like bodies trying to stop you from getting the ball to the other side of the field.
After this build up, the game quickly became disappointing. Scotland was well and truly savaged by 40 points to nil. The New Zealanders rarely seemed to lose the ball, and even when Scotland did manage to grab hold the ferocity of the tackling from the opposition was bone-breakingly thorough. I knew that Scotland would have a tough time, but it all seemed so one sided. A keener rugby fan than me explained what was happening. Scotland knew that it probably wouldn't beat the All Blacks.
They also knew that if they could beat Italy, their next opponent in a few days time, they could still qualify for the quarter finals. So the management had taken a tactical decision and effectively sacrificed the match against the All Blacks in order to ensure the best players were well rested and undamaged for the next game. The team sent into battle was effectively a B team and the strategy was to take a longer term view rather than focus resources on trying to win in the short term.
When explained this all seemed quite a reasonable approach (though little consolation to those thousands of people who had paid for expensive seats to watch a match where the Mexican wave was about the most exciting event - I don't think they were very happy customers). But how many times do we play the long game in the protection market?
We all have short term targets to meet and as a result the price war continues and we all grab market share from each other rather than try and grow the market. We cannot introduce innovative new products because that would require a much longer term view, with potentially low sales in the early days. So instead we meet our short term targets by using rate activity when in fact we need to be planning how to break out of the price war we are in and to find new ways of increasing consumer demand.
Surely it’s about time for the protection industry to admit that we cannot win the price war and that these short term tactics are doing nothing to increase sales and grow the market. It takes guts, and it could also upset people in the process. But perhaps we need to sacrifice something short term in order to ensure that we are lean, healthy and possess a product and process that allows us to win the whole competition, rather than simply one of the matches.
Roger Edwards is product director at Bright Grey
0207 034 2637
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