Wednesday, 29 June 2011

RWCRWCRWC and you can’t sue me – there I said it!

There are times when the attitude of some people towards money leaves me absolutely speechless. Well, no actually I guess it doesn’t do that so much as leave me grasping for words that do justice to their utterly stomach turning greed.

Who am I talking about in this case? Well there are plenty of candidates right now, and no, this is not a bitch about the rich from an impecunious writer. Instead it is a bitch about the extremely greedy (who also happen to be rich) by an impecunious writer.

My targets today are...(drum roll or cheese roll if you prefer)... the IRB, the NZRFU, and the National Disgrace Government.

My moan is about the upcoming Rugby World Cup and the ridiculous measures being taken to protect the interests of the official sponsors.

I can understand that sponsors who have paid the equivalent of the GDP of a mid-sized European nation to be associated with the event would not want their competitors to piggy-back onto their advertising without stumping up any dosh of their own. That’s fair enough and anyone from a rival company trying to get their advertising into the stadium deserves to get their ears clipped. But the trouble is that it doesn’t just stop there; these corporate gluttons want nobody within a whale’s sonar range of each game from advertising their company or products and services. In some cases it will be an offence if the advertising can simply be seen from the ‘clean zone’ they have defined around each venue.

Another of the most obvious and silly measures is that even some of the stadia have had to change their names because they have the names of sponsors not associated with the event. The cake tin will be known as Wellington Regional Stadium to spare the feelings of ANZ Bank who is an official sponsor.

But these multi-nationals have extremely high-level help to protect their interests. They have pressured the New Zealand Government to pass legislation to protect them. But unlike the laws they pass to (allegedly) protect you and me against home invasions, street bashings and drunk drivers, these laws will actually be enforced and probably to the fullest extent of the very severe penalties provided within them.

To the best of my knowledge our Government has two Acts of Parliament and one set of regulations currently in force to protect these already far too powerful people. The first of these is the Major Events Management Act 2007 (MEMA) and subsequently the Rugby World Cup 2011 (Empowering) Act 2010 and the Rugby World Cup (Empowering) Regulations 2010 have passed into the anus of our history.

What these laws have done apart from restricting our freedom of expression in some rather bizarre ways, is they have made officers of the New Zealand Government servants of these multi-nationals, but servants paid for by you and I. This is because enforcement of these pieces of legislation will be carried out by the Ministry of Economic Development. According to the Fairfax website this week they designated 40 staff members to ‘police stadiums (sic) throughout the country’ and to look out for ‘deliberate or malicious advertising attempts’.

Now this is serious stuff because for two months or more these 40 people who are being paid by you and I will be unavailable to do any work on our behalf and the cost won’t stop there because any prosecutions brought will also be paid for by us.

So am I making a mountain out of a slag heap? I don’t think so. The legislation provides for penalties of up to $150,000 and the indication is that for once something close to this will be sought for maters which should really be dealt with in the civil courts by litigants who are more than capable of funding such prosecutions themselves.

And some of the banned activities are just so stupid. For example I found in MEMA that a B&B cannot put an advert on their website offering special Rugby World Cup packages. Now packages like that have been offered by accommodation providers for ever and I doubt that anyone has believed those places were in any way associated with the event. It’s just a way of offering a special rate during a major event. But according to the official guide to MEMA the local B&B would only be allowed to advise they had vacancies or a special rate during September and October without mentioning the event that is the reason people are seeking accommodation.

 In another equally stupid example a bar can have a sign outside advertising ‘Team A v Team B Live On The Big Screen Tonight’ but they cannot say ‘Joe’s Bar Presents Team A v Team B Live On The Big Screen Tonight’ despite the fact they haven’t even mentioned the words Rugby World Cup 2011 (wash my mouth out). I note also that you cannot have a printed Rugby World Cup Guide brought to you by blah blah. Which means we won’t be able to get a cheap one in the newspaper unless they remove all advertising by non RWC sponsors for eight pages either side of it (sorry I just made that bit up).

Don’t get me wrong I am very pleased the RWC has come to New Zealand; although I’m pretty pissed off I couldn’t afford to get any tickets. However I will be watching it and I will be backing the ABs and I hope like hell they don’t pick any injured players this time.

I just think it’s plain wrong, however that we are dancing so frenetically to the diabolical piper’s tune.

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