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The Rugby World Cup: Regulating the Party

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WWI recruitment poster, Publicity Department, Central London Recruiting Depot, 1915.

The 2011 Rugby World Cup kicked off in New Zealand on September 9th with a glittering opening ceremony followed by the first match between New Zealand and Tonga.  (Note that the New Zealand national rugby team is commonly called the “All Blacks.”)  I’ve had a couple of very busy weekends watching a number of the pool matches (i.e., round robin matchups)!  Rugby is something of an obsession in New Zealand and among people of many other countries, too – there are twenty teams vying for the Webb Ellis Cup, which is only up for grabs every four years.  The teams come from all over the world and the fans have been showing their support in a loud and colorful fashion (some after having first experienced being welcomed to New Zealand).  An estimated 95,000 visitors will come to New Zealand during the 45-day tournament.  An even larger television audience means that the country is really on show to the world.

The Rugby World Cup is the world’s third largest sporting event after the Olympics and the soccer World Cup.  Holding such a big event in a small country requires a great deal of planning – and funding, of course!  There was also a need for new laws and regulations to ensure a coherent and consistent approach around the country.

While working for the New Zealand government during the mid to late 2000’s, I saw first hand the regulatory process getting into full swing.  A Minister for the Rugby World Cup was established within the Cabinet, and the Rugby World Cup Government Co-ordination Office was set up within the Ministry of Economic Development.  This Office worked with a number of agencies to coordinate core government services and to ensure New Zealand was ready “on all fronts.”  It developed a dedicated website so that visitors could quickly access government information related to these services and to the events taking place around the country.  In addition, the government established a temporary agency, the Rugby World Cup Authority, to consider and determine applications for activities and facilities related to the Rugby World Cup on a faster track than is normally required.

The regulatory changes enacted in the last few years that relate to the Rugby World Cup include:

  • Major Events Management Act 2007.  This statute provides for legal protections to be put in place “to prevent unauthorized commercial exploitation at the expense of an event organiser or its official sponsors.”  This includes preventing “ambush marketing” in dedicated areas – in the case of the Rugby World Cup, this means that for a period of time before and during a match an area around the venue must be free of unauthorized advertising.  There are also rules related to ticket scalping as well as tough penalties aimed at deterring “pitch invaders.”  The pitch invasion provisions have already been brought into play, although it seems that charges won’t be laid in relation to the particular “disruption.”
  • Major Events Management (Rugby World Cup 2011) Order 2007.  This order declared the Rugby World Cup to be a “major event” under the above statute.
  • Major Event Emblems and Words (Rugby World Cup 2011) Order 2008.  Under this order, certain emblems and words are protected during the “protection period” for the event.
  • Rugby World Cup 2011 (Empowering) Act 2010 and Rugby World Cup (Empowering) Regulations 2010.  These instruments established the Rugby World Cup Authority mentioned above, including setting out its membership, functions and powers, as well as its hearing and appeal procedures.  The Authority’s role included granting Rugby World Cup liquor licenses, while inspectors and constables are given particular powers in relation to enforcing those licenses… all very important since rugby and beer tend to go together quite frequently.

In addition to these regulations, and in a clear demonstration of the importance of  (i.e., obsession with) the Rugby World Cup, New Zealand adjusted the school terms “to align the October term holiday with the final stages of the 2011 Rugby World Cup tournament.”

Go All Blacks (and any team playing Australia, South Africa, France, or England)!


  1. Kelly’s antipodean posts are becoming tiring.

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