John McLellan: Kick-off time behind rugby tourism slump?
The Six Nations is only a fortnight away and this week the Edinburgh Hotels Association claimed austerity has forced more visiting rugby fans to spend only one night here.
It’s hard to blame the Tories for the amount of money the French and Irish have at their disposal, but is cash shortage the reason? What about match scheduling? Late Saturday games allow supporters to travel on the day, and Sunday afternoon matches produce an exodus of those with work on Monday.
The value to the Scottish economy apparently fell from £52 million to £45m from 2013-16, and in 2013, 2014 and 2015 the Ireland, France and Wales games were all on Sundays.
In 2016 it was 4.30pm on Saturday for England and Sunday for France. Last year, thank the Lord, both the Ireland and Wales games had mid-afternoon Saturday kick-offs, so the economic data might show an uplift, but this year it’s back to Sunday for France. Where this theory might fall down is that late starts and Sunday matches have been part of the schedule for a while, but maybe the old traditions are slowly being eroded.
One way or another, it’s of no concern to the unions whose stadia are still full as the TV dosh rolls in.