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Producing superstars like Stokes is the way to grow rugby, says Premiership chief

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Premiership Rugby chief executive Imon Massie-Taylor believes the game needs to work together better to create more superstar players if it is to grow.

Massie-Taylor has a marketing background at the RFU and, speaking on Lawrence Dallaglio’s Evening Standard Rugby podcast, he said the sport needed to do more to promote itself, with a ‘change of mindset’ required.

“The players are the stars,” he said. “On social media, our top five players represent more than all clubs and Premiership Rugby [channels] combined. Player power is super important [for growing the game] when they have a voice.

“But those top five players are 75% a Ben Stokes or a Joe Root in cricket, which is a comparable team sport with roughly the same distribution.

“I think it’s a change of mentality, and that’s part of the challenge. In the culture of rugby, there’s the big poppy syndrome, putting your head above the parapet and everything.

“I think that’s changing and people are showing they have a voice. I think there is also a change of mentality within the clubs. We’ve talked a lot about it with Premiership clubs, getting that access that the media needs or the player wants to have. »

Massie-Taylor said he hoped later this year a more aligned schedule would be negotiated in the European and global game, but warned it would not be a “quick fix”.

“That really is the billion-pound question,” he said. “As the season builds, with 28 Gallagher Premiership weekends, eight European weekends, 12 internationals and trying to give players a rest, that equation doesn’t add up to 52.

“Either you deal the cards laid or you do something drastic. I think the challenge for rugby is that frankly there is no silver bullet. The positive is that throughout the Covid period, a lot of progress has been made in considering things like this, from all angles.

“There are various drills going on which hopefully will come together later this year and we can hold hands and say this is the future of rugby. It’s not going to be a magic bullet, but this will hopefully be a gradual step towards better alignment on a global scale.

Massie-Taylor also revealed that next month’s Premiership final at Twickenham, the first with a full crowd since 2019, will feature a Super Bowl-style half-time show for the first time, with performances from Sophie Ellis- Bextor and The Feeling.


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